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Gilsland Main Street in summer
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Gilsland is a village in northern England. It straddles the border between Cumbria and Northumberland.

The unusual arrangement, incorporating two county councils and three civil parish councils, is due to the gradual amalgamation of hamlets during the 19th century. It has a population of about 400, most of whom live on the Northumberland side of the River Irthing and Poltross Burn. Close by is Gilsland Spa, known in the past for its sulphureous spa waters.

It provides an amenity centre for visitors touring Hadrian's Wall and other features of historical interest in this area of rugged Border country, popularised by the Romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott. Milecastle 48 Fort of Hadrian's Wall, known locally as The King's Stables, is situated on the outskirts of Gilsland.


[edit] History

As in most areas of Britain, Bronze-Age and Iron-Age settlement is represented by cup and ring marked stones, standing stones and hill forts, though few such monuments, with the possible exception of the Popping Stone, have been found near Gilsland. The evident antiquity of the civil parish boundaries may also be traceable to the Iron-Age.

Gilsland is situated upon Hadrian's Wall, a noted monument constructed by the Roman army in the early part of the second century AD and lately dignified by nomination as a World Heritage Site. Consequently, a superficial layer of Romano-British remains, remarkable chiefly for their quantity, is strewn across the surrounding landscape and dominates archaeological writings on the region, no doubt due to the classicist thrall under which early (and some later) archaeologists worked, the ease with which Roman artefacts can be found and the relative lack of original research since 1900. Prominent remains of military structures form tourist attractions, the focus being almost entirely on their stone-built phases, most having been repeatedly re-constructed in turf & timber. The Wall itself was initially of turf from a point to the west of Gilsland, but was eventually replaced in stone.

After the Romano-British interlude, paralleled perhaps by the effects of the British Raj in India, native populations went back to the business of creating the political entities we recognise and value today. Place-names give evidence of Scandinavian and Germanic influence during the so-called Dark Ages, but whether this influence was accompanied by mass-migration is currently debated by historians. Two outstanding, if somewhat mythical, characters from this time, King Arthur and Saint Patrick, probably came from the Gilsland area.

The ancient kingdoms of Strathclyde and Northumbria were eventually subsumed into what we now know as Scotland and England, but for most of the later mediaeval period the Borders suffered instability and lawlessness due to their mutual antipathy and the indeterminate nature of the border. There have been many valiant attempts to romanticise the assumed incessant violence, starting with Sir Walter Scott and continuing to the 21st century farrago of Hexham Old Gaol.

As soon as the area was definitively pacified, with the union of the crowns and the suppression of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, economic activity rapidly increased. Gilsland Spa was already a popular summer resort by the 1790s and went on to provide a nucleus for the accumulation of guest-houses we now recognise as Gilsland. The opening of a railway station in the 1830s led to a further boom in tourism. In the 1860s the name of the station was changed from Rose Hill to Gilsland, and residents of Rosehill, Mumpshall, Crooks, The Gap and surrounding farms and hamlets were invited to think of themselves as a single village, the name having been derived from the surrounding Barony of Gilsland. The idea has still not really caught on.

[edit] Present

Today the village is somewhat isolated, as it always has been, with large tracts of forestry and high ground to the north and south. The A69 east-west trunk road runs nearby, providing access to Hexham and Carlisle within half-an-hour by car, or the closer small towns of Haltwhistle and Brampton in minutes. Bus services are intermittent and disorganised, and the railway station has been closed.

In the recent past, several small coal mines operated nearby, but occupation has mainly been in farming and building trades, also haulage, and a flourishing white-lining business is located in the village. Large amounts of funding are currently being poured into "development" and promotion of the area for tourism, and residents are increasingly offering facilities such as accommodation in response. Tourist preferences and government funding are both notoriously fickle, however, and it remains to be seen how reliable a source of income this will be.

[edit] General information

[edit] References

Bird, W.G. 1913. Gilsland and Neighbourhood, 3rd Edition; James Gregg, Gilsland. Still the best guide book to Gilsland, by the vicar at the time. 5 editions, 1908, 1910, 1913, 1922, 1927.

Jenkinson, H.I. 1884. Jenkinson's Practical Guide to Carlisle, Gilsland, Roman Wall, and Neighbourhood; Edward Stanford, London. (Also a first edition, 1875, and "Jenkinson's Smaller Practical Guides" of the same dates.) One of the more useful guides to Gilsland, having a Gilsland section of 113pp. The information appears to have been carefully researched by an author familiar with the area and the numerous walks described from Gilsland to nearby destinations contain a wealth of detail.

Mounsey, G.G., [1865], Gillesland; Lonsdale, Carlisle. This is the only competent history of Gilsland, much plagiarised by subsequent writers. It is very rare, but there are copies in Carlisle library and public records office, and the full text is online at Gillesland Online

Gilsland is frequently mentioned in books about the area, and for a relatively complete annotated list of these see Gilsland Bibliography

[edit] External links

Coordinates: 54°59'27?N, 2°34'17?W

(Source: Wikipedia)
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