Railway Age

The latter years of the Georgian period and the Victorian period brought many changes that would shape the future of Britain. The 1832 Reform Act, championed by Lord Grey of Howick, started the process of national democratic reform, and his 1835 Municipal Reform Act provided similar local reforms by creating locally elected councils. While Alnwick was excluded from the latter change, due in part to resistance from the Freemen and the Duke, change was inevitable, and the influence of both gradually reduced as new bodies were created to take over many of the local civic responsibilities.

In 1836 the Alnwick Poor Law Union was formed and in 1840 the new Union Workhouse on Wagonway Road was built, replacing the 1810 Parish Poor House on Green Batt.

Other bodies included the Alnwick and Canongate Board of Health (1850), Northumberland Constabulary (1889), Northumberland County Council (1889), and Alnwick Urban District Council (1894).

The Newcastle and Berwick Railway opened in 1847, brought an end the era of mail coaches on the Great North Road. The branch line from Alnmouth to Alnwick was completed in 1850. The original Alnwick station was very modest, but a new, enlarged station building was opened in 1887, at the same time as the line from Alnwick to Cornhill. See Railways.

In the mid 19th century the 4th Duke swept away his grandparents’ unfashionable ‘fairy-gothic’ style and created the Castle that is seen today. The Gardens too were redesigned in an Italianate style. Further acquisitions of land in the second half of the 19th century, including that of Stoney Peth quarry, provided the opportunity to reshape the park. A substantial wall was built around the perimeter, and in 1859, a new entrance was built at the Stocking Gate. Designed by Anthony Salvin, it was named Forest Lodge.

In 1873 a Baths and Wash House was opened, adjacent to the Working Men’s Club, which opened one year later. It provided much needed facilities for bathing and washing clothes. The ten-yard plunge pool led to the forming of the Alnwick Swimming Club, which held regular competitions there.

The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 brought had a major effect on the town. The building of an Army Camp on the North Demesne added over 4,000 to the population of the town, while many other buildings were used to support the national effort. See WW1 sites.