top of page

Naming Norham (3) Norham's Railway Stations, Shops and Pubs in the 1860s

Norham's Ordnance Survey Name Book gives glimpses of how life was changing in this remote rural community.


The OS Name Book for the Parish of Norham has only recently been transcribed and made available on the new’ Northumberland Name Books’ website ( )

Here we can see what the Name Book surveyors recorded about railway stations, shops and services, and inns and pubs.


Travelling westwards today from Berwick on the A698 to Cornhill, we see remains of an old railway line in a series of abandoned bridges and embankments. This section of the North Eastern Railway Company’s line opened in 1849, and by the 1860s, it is carrying passengers and freight to the three railway stations of Velvethall, Norham and Cornhill.

These three stations in the Parish are only about 3 and 6 miles from each other, but each has a range of buildings and facilities.

Velvethall (now spelt Velvet Hall) Station is the halt for the village of Horncliffe. It has, “A neat and commodious stationhouse (which) comprises, station masters residence, Booking Office and Waiting Room, Engine house, Coal and Lime Depot etc.” (Norham 19).

Further West, Norham Station is, “A two storey house, the upper part of which is appro- priated to a booking Office, and the remainder to the residence of the Station master, to which is attached Goods and other Sheds the property of the North East East Railway Company.” (Norham 23.

By the 1860s, the railway is becoming increasingly important in people’s lives. Local newspapers, when advertising the sale of agricultural land or houses, often report on how close they are to these rural stations.

The Name Book gives more detail for Cornhill Railway Station. This is, “A commodious station on the North East Railway 9 ½ miles distant from Kelso. It is also the halting place to Coldstream to which place there is a regular conveyance to meet the trains. The station house and offices are well built with freestone and there are luggage and coal and lime departments”. (Norham 134) An Illustrated Berwick Journal report of Friday, 21 July 1865 gives an idea of the sheer volume of people who are carried to and from these country stations on high days and holidays..

The 'Berwick Sabbath School Excursion' to the Hirsel in Coldstream earlier in the week involves 1500 people, including 800 children and their teachers. Two trains, of 14 and 24 carriages, convey the crowds to Cornhill Station, before they proceed to the Hirsel. Their entertainments include, singing a hymn by the house, doing “justice to an ample supply of refreshments” and “enjoying themselves in a variety of youthful games”. Later the older children are marched back to Cornhill Station, with the younger children taken on six long carts. They arrive back at Berwick Station at 8 pm, no doubt tired, but happy after their eventful day. (British Newspaper Archive)



There is very little detail about different shops in Norham's Name Book. The larger villages, Norham and Cornhill have ‘several’ grocers’ shops and Horncliffe and Duddo one shop apiece.

There are two Post Offices specifically mentioned in Horncliffe and Norham, but only that in Norham is described in detail.

“A two storey house, a portion of which is appropriated to a Post-office and the remainder to a to a Grocer's Shop (see image for the original entry from the Name Book page 42 below) Occupied by Thos Kennedy Postmaster.

There are two arrivals and two dispatches of letters daily, one per rail and the other by Mail Car, running between Coldstream and Berwick." (Norham 42).

At this date, mail is being carried by two methods, both road and rail.


The Parish is well served by public houses. Norham village has the most, with five clustering in the centre - the Victoria Inn, the Black Bull Inn, the Masons Arms, the Salmon Inn and the White Swan. Only one of these still functions as a pub today. In 1861 the pub deemed to be the “best” inn is the Black Bull, owned and occupied by Robert Nisbit, (Norham 33). The Salmon Inn, is however, less well regarded and is described as, “a low public house”. (Norham 37 ). The White Swan is the only pub owned by a company, the Border Brewing Company (Norham 38) but all the others are individually owned.

Just outside the village are two more public houses, the Wheatsheaf, a roadside public house on the turnpike road between Berwick and Etal and Salutation Hall on the road from Berwick to Cornhill, which derives its unusual name from the fact that it is owned by the Dean and Chapter of Durham. (Norham 62) At Duddo, there is the Swan Inn, a two storey house (Norham 108).

The Fisher’s Arms in Horncliffe is, “a good house” (Norham 15), and

Velvethall Inn near Velvethall Station is, “an old established Inn, on the Turnpike Road, leading from Berwick to Norham”. (Present-day A698) (Norham 19 )

In Cornhill, there seems to be a distinct pecking order in the descriptions of the three inns. The Collingwood Arms Inn, in the centre of the village, is, “one of the most respectable class of wayside country Inns and has good accommodation for lodgers and is also a posting house”. (Norham 129)

Close by, near the church, the Waggon Inn is also approved of and described as, “a respectable country road side Inn, where good accommodation may be had.” (Norham 130) The small roadside inn, the Plough Inn, a mile from Cornhill, fares less well. It, “is of merely a second rate description and is principally frequented by foot passengers and Carriers who make it a halting place”. (Norham 118) These inns evidently have their own distinct set of customers.

One curiously named public house is called ‘The Folly. This is located on the west side of the Turnpike road (present-day B6354) at ‘West Allerdean’. The Name Book suggests a reason: “This house was built about 70 years ago. And shortly after its erection, it was discovered that the person by whom it was built had no right to the ground on which it stood and was therefore taken from him – hence the ‘Folly’!” (Norham 65). See page 65 below for the original entry.


Each Name Book entry, (as seen in page 62 above) has at least three ‘Authorities’ to vouch for the spellings of the Names. But, who are the Authorities? And, how are they chosen? The Ordnance Survey choose, “well-educated and knowledgeable individuals” and recommend somewhat pompously, “respectable inhabitants of some position should be consulted”. Authorities include property owners, clergymen, parish clerks, post-masters and school masters.

For Norham village, Authorities consulted are: the Vicar of Norham, Revd W C King, the Parish Clerk & Sexton, Mr Mark Young, School Teachers Mr Richard Forsyth and Mr James Hay, Ministers Revd William Haig and Revd James Anderson, tax collector Mr Alexander Davison and landowner Alexander Smith Esqr. of Galagate. But Norham’s Name Book includes no women ‘Authorities’. Women only occasionally feature as owners of properties. One example is Mrs Blake, owner of Norham Castle and dwelling house. (Norham 27)

The entries in the Name Books are a reminder of society’s values at the time - the formality of how people were addressed (Mr, Sir, Esquire etc.), and about attitudes to social class and to women’s role in society. The Name Books can be used and combined with information from Censuses and local newspapers, to give us fresh glimpses into Norham’s landscapes and life in the early 1860s.



My thanks to Diana Whaley, Emeritus Professor of Newcastle University and to her team of volunteers who transcribed the handwritten name books.

The Ordnance Survey Name Book (OSNB) website is available at: The images and transcripts of the Norham OSNB are available at OS34/404/ and are reproduced by permission of © copyright the National Archives, London. Norham's Namebook is numbered 404 and Norham 65, relates to page 65 of the Name Book

My thanks also to Chris Neville-Taylor for the historic photographs of Velvet Hall Railway Station (courtesy of NERA) and Norham Railway Station (courtesy of CJB Sanderson, now managed by ARPT).

Further Information

Diana Whaley (2020). Northumberland through the eyes of the gallant Ordnance Surveyors, c.1860. The Northumbrian 176, 14-19. (Provides a useful overview of the OSNB project)

The British Newspaper Archive is available on-line.


506 views1 comment

Related Posts

See All
bottom of page