I don’t know much about the early history of Town Farm but have speculated that it was in place in 1750 requiring the slight adjustment of General Wade’s Military Road from using the line (and foundations) of Hadrian’s Wall, west from Great Hill. This led to the preserved section of the Wall otherwise largely destroyed and covered by the road. This road, the first properly constructed road in Northumberland since Roman times, became the Newcastle to Carlisle Turnpike and later the A69, before it was abandoned and the bypass constructed.
Beside the old road, below the retaining wall of the Town Farm site, still stands a milestone recording a distance of 7 miles from Newcastle’s West gate. It is probably one of the original milestones of the turnpike road from around 1780.
The original farm may have adjoined the old buildings, incorporating both farmhouse and barn as one long building. The two-storey farmhouse still standing on the north side of the old road, previously Four Winds and now Glanville House, was probably a much later addition.
At one time, like much of the village, it was owned by the Clayton family. The farmer in 1901 was William Stephenson who lived in the farmhouse with his wife Sarah and six children. William had been born at Rudchester and was nephew of William Stephenson who founded Throckley Brick Works and whose son, Sir William Haswell Stephenson of the Throckley Coal Company was seven times Lord Mayor of Newcastle.
In 1901 a gamekeeper, George Charlton, lived in what is now Keepers Cottage. He died in 1931 and has a gravestone in St Andrew’s churchyard erected by Brigadier General Sir Loftus Bates of Heddon Hall ‘in memory of an old friend’.
There was a large fire at Town Farm in 1913 which destroyed buildings and livestock. It was fought by local people until the fire brigade arrived from Newburn, alerted by a youth on a bicycle.
In 1918 it was bought for £3000, along with many of the other village properties, by Sir James Knott who had a vision of turning Heddon into a model village. However, after the events of the First War and loss of his two sons, his interest in the village came to an end. Town Farm was Lot 1 in his sale of 1924. Town Farm, on the site of the Roman Wall, including 38 acres of old grass land, was sold to Adam and James Hedley for £2800. They were already faming Bays Leap, bought from the Claytons in 1918. James Knott retained the small field containing the currently preserved section of Hadrian’s Wall which he later instructed to be gifted to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne.
Around 1927, Town Farm was rented from the Hedleys by William Ward Sanderson. He lived in the farmhouse and farmed the fields on the east side of the village, milking cows in a parlour at the farmstead, cutting hay on the site of the Roman Wall and running a local shop selling cigarettes and confectionary. The end of farming came when the land was sold for the building of the Vallum housing estate in the 1950s. The farm buildings became part of Tulip’s Yard, base for a successful haulage company.
The wall of the farm next to the old road sported adverts for the local shop and a Heddon on the Wall road-sign on a photo of army cadets resting on the grass below taken around 1950. Part of this photo was used on the album of The Eton Rifles by The Jam in 1979.
Demolition of the farm buildings in the past weeks and thorough archaeological excavation of the site has revealed the continuation of Hadrian’s Wall in two runs of large stones marking the lower course of its north face, and rubble core set in clay remaining below the old buildings. Most of the stones had been previously robbed and presumably reused elsewhere, perhaps including the church and even the buildings of Town Farm. Milecastle 12, known by measurement to be in this vicinity, hasn’t yet been found and may have been further west, perhaps under the garden north of Tank House. Similar remains of the Wall are known to exist below the tarmac of General Wade's road something that causes all sorts of problems for utility companies wanting to dig holes.
Cadwallader Bates in his History of Heddon published 1886: This mile-castle probably stood to the east of the pond, on the hill-top now covered with ruins of cottages. The Rev. G. Bowlker, vicar of Heddon, has heard that the people who lived in these cottages, in digging a hole in front of them for burying a horse, came on old foundations and what they described as a grave-stone with letters on it. This they promptly broke up.
Nothing has been agreed to date but interest has been expressed in the village obtaining at least some of the Hadrian’s Wall stones if they are not wanted elsewhere, perhaps to enhance the area around the Victrix sculpture, letting us put the centurion close to a little part of the fabric of the original Roman Wall.
Wardell Armstrong - Tulip Mews, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland. Watching Brief Report (2020).