MORPETH, a market town and municipal and parliamentary borough of Northumberland, England, situated in a fine valley on the Wansbeck, 17 j m. N. of Newcastle by the North Eastern railway the junction of several branches with the main line. Pop. (1901), 6158. The Wansbeck winds round the town on the west, south and east, and a rivulet, the Cottingburn, bounds it on the north. The parish church of St Mary, a plain building of the 14th century, is situated on Kirk Hill, a short distance from the town. It has a good example of a Jesse window. Nothing remains of the old castle except the gateway. The valley of the Wansbeck above Morpeth is well wooded and very picturesque. By its side are fragments of Newminster Abbey, a wealthy foundation of the 12th century, occupied by monks from Fountains in Yorkshire; and Mitford, with its Norman and Early English church, and ruins of a Norman castle and a manor-house of the 17th century. To the north of Morpeth a good specimen of the peel tower of the 15th century is seen at Cockley Park. Industries of Morpeth include tanning, brewing, malting, iron and brass founding, and the manufacture of flannels, agricultural implements, and bricks and tiles. The parliamentary borough, within the Wansbeck division of the county, returns one member and extends 8 m. eastward to the coast, including the town of Blyth. Morpeth is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 328 acres.
The manor of Morpeth is said to have been granted to William de Merlay soon after the Conquest and passed with the borough from his family to those of Graystock, Dacre and Howard, earls of Carlisle, with whom it remains. The town is a borough by prescription and grew up round the castle attributed to the above William de Merlay. About the end of the 12th century Roger de Merlay the younger granted the burgesses right to hold of him and his heirs " as freely as the charter of the king purported which he held of the king by gift." Charles II. incorporated the town in 1662 under the government of two bailiffs who were chosen every year in the following manner: the bailiffs for the time being chose two juries from whom the commonalty elected four burgesses, and from these four the steward of the lord of the manor appointed the bailiffs for the ensuing year. This was continued until the Municipal Reform Act of 1835. In 1 200 a market on Wednesday and a fair on the Feast of St Mary Magdalene were granted to Roger de Merlay, and in 1283 the fair was extended for two days. The market rights still belong to the lord of the manor.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)