Column Field and the Tenantry Column have welcomed people arriving in Alnwick from the south for over two hundred years. Together, they mark threshold of the historic part of the town, just as Bondgate Tower marks the entry into the town centre itself.
The Tenantry Column was erected in 1816 by the tenants of the Duke of Northumberland. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Duke’s tenants, who included farmers, mine owners and factory owners, benefited from increased prices for their products due to the demands of the Army. As profits increased, rents too were raised. The peace of 1815, however, saw a fall in demand, with the resultant drop in both prices and profits. The tenants struggled to pay the higher rents, and so the Duke of Northumberland reduced his rents by a quarter. His tenants, thankful for this, jointly subscribed to construct the column.
It is widely known as the ‘Farmers’ Folly’ as it is said, apocryphally, that when the Duke saw that tenants were able the afford to erect such a monument, he promptly put their rents back up. What is the truth about the Farmers’ Folly? Click here to read more.
In 1921, the Duke of Northumberland leased the land to Alnwick Urban District Council for a period of 21 years at an annual rent of £1. This lease has been continually extended to this day.
In 1922, the War Memorial was erected on the western tip of Column Field and a new section of road was built between the new memorial and the remainder of the parkland to create the island on which the memorial stands. The perimeter wall was adjusted at this time.
Column Field was surrounded by railings until these were stripped for munition purposes in World War II and is now accessible at all times.
It is simply laid out with three narrow kerbed paths leading up to the column, a shortcut avoiding the climb running around the back and a more recent addition skirting the field at its lowest point, parallel to Denwick Lane. The grassed areas have, in the great main, been undisturbed since the installation of the Column. The timber is principally on the north side but a good view of the Column is managed from South Road. By tradition it is used for commemoration and, following the spirit of its foundation, benches, carefully sited trees and a few borders have been added.
In part due to its elevation, no building overlooks it despite it being close to the centre of town. This absence of casual surveillance aids its characteristic rus in urbe.