The Stocken or Stocking Burn is a considerable stream, roughly one mile and a half in length, about one half (at mouth) to one mile distance (at source) to the W. of Alnwick. The Stocken Burn drains the headlands of the Inner Aydon/ Alnwick Moor, hence it’s alternative name of the Alnwick Moor Burn. Flowing to the NE, it enters the River Aln, just above the weir at the Abbey Mill, Canongate Bridge. (Fig. 1)
The Importance of the Stocken Burn and Dene
The Stocken Burn and Dene would have provided the following to the town of Alnwick: –
1) A sheltered N. facing dene, providing ample flat fertile lands on the stream banks for settlement, agriculture and industry.
2) The geology exposed by the down-cutting of the Stocken Burn would have been of great significance to the early Alnwick. The burn exposes a fine section through part of the Scremerston Coal Group. This sedimentary sequence consists of a series of fine sandstones, silts and shales/ clays, deposited in a lacustrine, low coastal flood plain environment, during the Lower Carboniferous, dating to 338 – 333 Ma ago, from fossil evidence. The sediments show cyclic repetition, as the low coastal plain was inundated periodically by marine transgressions, resulting in deposition of limestones within the sequence. Progradation of deltaic, lacustrine and fluviatile environments over this shallow sea, result in the deposition of sandstones, siltstones, shales and clays, followed by the emergence of the flood plain, allowing equatorial forest/ vegetation to grow on sub-aerial, soil horizons, producing some low grade but workable coal seams.
The Stocken Burn hence allows relatively easy access to useful resources. Thin workable coal seams would provide domestic fuel, and promote various industrial activities locally. Limestones would allow for lime production; fine sandstones would provide useful building stones (the nearby Stony Peth Quarry), and roofing flagstones. Thin, low grade iron concretions and ironstone horizons, would allow for some crude early metal smelting. Many of the clays and fireclays are suitable for firing, promoting pottery, tile and brick making activities.
The Percy Bailiff’s Rolls tell us that in 1471/1472, there was at least one coal mine in the Stokeynge, which was in the Lord’s hands, due to a lack of tenants, but which was accustomed to render 33s 4d in annual rental. (p. 3) (This is about £1140 per year today)
The exposure of such strata within the Stocken Burn is also important in indicating to early inhabitants, where such deposits might also occur at depth, beneath the surrounding Alnwick/ Aydon Moor. Hence the Stocken Burn became the main focus and axis of much of the mining activity on Alnwick Moor.
3) Copious fresh water for human and animal use; for permanent settlement; processing of agricultural produce; industrial economic activity from metal smelting to textile manufacture and fulling, to clay pottery and brick firing, amongst many.
4) This dene is one of the nearest to Alnwick, and its forest would produce wood as fuel and building materials. The forest could also be part cleared for the pasturing of domestic livestock, such as swine, within the forest, aided by the construction of fenced enclosures. Such enclosures would exclude wild animals, but could also be employed in the trapping and hunting of deer. The forest could be cleared in higher reaches of the Stocken to provide pasture on the Inner Aydon/ Alnwick Moor. Stocken Burn Dene might be expected to be one of the first areas for communal pasture for the town of Alnwick, which in Anglo- Saxon times increasingly came under pressure from encroaching central lordships. Such conflict may have existed right up until communal pasture on the Moor was confirmed by the Vescy Charters of 1157/1185, 1226/1253 and 1290 . (Charters From the De Vescys to the Burgesses of Alnwick – Alnwick Heritage)