ate: Hobberlaw, or Bertewell in 1289, is a hamlet containing about 200 acres, one and a half miles south-eastward of the town, on a high ridge sloping from Alnwick Moor to Rugley Burn. Its old name, meaning the bright well, is from beorht birhta, a.s., bright, and wyl, well, a.s., a well or spring. One field is still called Botty’s Well Close, a corruption of the original name. Hobberlaw or Uberlaw, or as it appears on the church register 1646 Upper- law, does not occur before the fifteenth century, and comes from hsafer, a. s., a swelling, ufera, higher, and hlaw, a. s., a hill— the upper hill.
Other archaic names in this hamlet are Pye close and Cadmacrook. Prior to 1289 Bertewell had been granted by the baron of Alnwick to Philip Fitz Martin, by service of one-eighth of a fee and a yearly rent of twenty-three pence, its yearly value being twenty shillings. Early in the next century it was in possession of Robert de Sokpeth who in 1311 was appointed by Bishop Kellawe receiver-general for Norham, and in 1314 was one of tho keepers of Norham Castle. To Alnwick Abbey he gave in 1311 a carucate of land, including, most probably, Coke’s close in Hobberlaw, which in 1540, after the dissolution of the monastery, was in the possession of George Alder, of Hoblaw. Thomas de Sokpeth held the hamlet in 1350 bv service of one quarter of a fee and 2s. 9d. yearly for Castle Ward, the yearly value being one hundred shillings. John de Sokpeth appears as the next owner in 1368. Sometime about 1456 this estate had passed to Robert Alder, in possession of whose descendants it continued nearly three centuries. The early descent of the family is given in the heraldic Visitation of 1615, from which and from court and corporate records and church registers, tho following pedigree has been compiled.
With the exception of the Percy family, that of Alder was the most important connected with Alnwick; besides Hobberlaw, Bondgate Hall, and 64 acres of land in Bondgate, the Banks, Wyke’s knowes, Swansfield, and several burgages belonged to the Alders ; but before the death of the last of them, Nathaniel Salkeld had become owner of the lands in Bondgate, and Alex. Armorer owner of Swansfiold. Hobberlaw, however, seems to have descended to Tabitha, the daugliier of Francis. Alder, and then to her offspring; for we find in the roll of the Knight’s Court of 1704, that Hobberlaw was in the possession of Henry and William Forster, as brothers of the late Mr. George Forster, who had succeeded Francis Alder. Henry, according to tho Canongate roll, held it in 1710, and he is described in 1710 of Augerton in the corporation records; but he died prior to 1723, and was succeeded by George Forster, of Angerten, who voted for Hobberlaw at the elections for the county in 1734 and 1748. Branches of the Alder family settled at Alnham, Prendwick, Framlington, and Horncliffe; but we have no space to give their alliances and descents.
Other Alders, who were in Alnwick from an early period, were probably originally connected with the Hobberlaw family ; Some of them were merchants, others cordwainers, fuller, schoolmaster, preacher, tailor, butcher, maltster, grocer, and herd; and a few of them filled the office of Chamberlains and were members of the Four-and-Twenty. There seems to have been amongst them a strong attraction for scriptural names ; Luke Alder was a Chamberlain in 1626; John a fuller in 1665, Joshua a shoemaker in 1713 ; and belonging to the same trade were Jacob in 1724, Joseph in 1732, Caleb in 1745, Thomas in 1779; and subsequently there were other Calebs and Joshuas ; the last Joshua died in 1762, and the last Caleb, who was a grocer and cheesemonger, in 1799. From one or other of these, but probably from Caleb, sprung Joshua Alder, the distinguished naturalist, who died at Newcastle, on January 21st, 1867, at the age of seventy-four years, and who is especially known for his researches among zoophytes and mollusks, and as the author, in conjunction with Mr. Albany Hancock, another eminent Newcastle naturalist, of a magnificent work on British Nudi-branchiate Mullusks.
Hobberlaw in 1755 was in possession of Robert Smart, who was connected with the Smarts of Trewitt, and who about the same time married Frances, a daughter of the Rev. William Burrell, vicar of Chatton and owner of Broompark. A trouble-some man he was to the freemen and to the parish; he made agressions on Alnwick moor ; he fought the Four-and-Twenty for a road across the moor and he obtained it ; he claimed exemption from church rates but was unsuccessful ; and thus he involved both the corporation and parish in lawsuits. An ingenious man he was however — a mathematician, an astronomer, “with, it is said, the Principia at his finger ends, a mechanist and a musician ; but of eccentric tastes and habits. His estate he divided in fields having geometrical forms and enclosed them with double hedges; he made an organ for Belford church ; and he invented a threshing machine about the year 1778, when also a Mr. Elderton near Alnwick made another. “These machines,” it is said in Ree’s Cyclopedia, “were so constructed as to act by rubbing instead of beating out the grain ; but they were found defective, as along with its doing very little work in a given time it bruised the grain.” One of Robert Smart’s daughters, who lived in Alnwick, related that he, after successfully trying the machine, broke it up, fearing its adoption would injure the agricultural labourer ; but that after his decease it was patented by his servant Kastrick, whose machine, it is reported in the Cyclopredia, had novelties of construction, and was seen to thrash forty-three sheaves in ten minutes and to dress them at the same time. To one strange purpose Smart applied his genius ; for believing that man could like a bird fly through the air if provided with suitable mechanical apparatus, he constructed for himself a pair of wings made of leather and feathers, and attached them to his arms with some mechanism to aid their movement. His friends and servants he summoned to witness his first flight ; and after ascending the granary stairs at Hobberlaw, he waved for a while his wings, and then sprung from the stair head, expecting to soar upwards ; but, alas ! all the efforts he made with his apparatus could not overcome the laws of gravity, and clown he ignominiously fell into a gooseberry bush ! Fortunately, though the wings did not enable him to rise they lessened the force of the descent, so that, though mortified in spirit, he was little hurt in body by the ludicrous end of his experiment. Others, however, in the earlier part of the last century made similar attempts ; and oven one philosopher said that in time it would be as common to ask for your wings as for your boots. Modern science has achieved greater wonders ; and the time may come when a gentleman instead of asking for his carriage shall ask for his balloon. Besides being owner of Hobberlaw, Robert Smart was an extensive farmer, and tenanted both Wark and Spindlestone. He died on December 19th, 1787, aged 71 years, and by his will dated December 17th, 1783, left Hobberlaw to his son William, but charged with annuities to his widow and youngor sons. His widow subseqiently lived in Alnwick, where she died in 1812 ; her daughter .Sarah married William Spours, of Alnwick, from whom is descended Mr. Wm. Spours of Alnwick and .Shepperton Hall. Sometime, I understand, in the latter pat of the last century Hobberlaw, was sold to the Duke of Northimberland, to whom it now belongs.
Like all the residences of the gentry in the borderland, the house inhabited for centuries by the military tenants of Bortewell was a pele of considerable strength, capable of resisting the attacks of Scottish marauders. It stood on high ground at the northern extremity of the estate, adjoining Alnwick moor; part of the walls, which were of great thickness, were standing some thirty years ago. Tho modern farm, which contains 181ac. 3r. 17p., is let at a rental of £211 14s.; and there are besides two cottages with their half acres, and another field in which is quarried and burnt a limestone, one of the best in the kingdom.