Following the Union of the Crowns in 1606, the border areas became increasingly peaceful. The need for the defensive walls went away and these were gradually dismantled, the stones being reused in new buildings. The town remained, however, very unhealthy, with “dunghills on the public highways, compost heaped on the fore-street, the Market Place offensive with blood and offal, water stopped with garbage”.
The area was affected in the 17th century by the Great Plague. White Cross Howl is thought to mark the burial place of Denwick’s victims of the plague. Howling Lane is thought by some to be the site of Alnwick’s plague burials.
Alnwick retained its medieval character into the 17th century. Half of the houses on Norton’s map of 1624 still lie within the medieval walls – mostly at the head of a burgage plot. Of the remainder, half spread along the two main approaches of Bondgate and Clayport, and half are in the separate communities of Canongate, Walkergate and Bailiffgate.
Trade was improving, however, with many people involved in clothing manufacture and other crafts. This was mainly for local consumption, but some exporting was carried out from Alnmouth.
Until the mid-18th century, the Freemen were effectively the town’s governing body with responsibility for maintaining the roads, the marketplace, public order, trading standards, education, and the water supply. They constructed a number of buildings, including the Town Hall and the Fire Engine House. They also distributed charity and were patrons of the church.