Alston (Alston Moor)
Alston is a popular holiday centre located in the north-west of Cumbria. It is the surrounded by the wild Pennine Fells and is the highest market town in England at 300m above sea level. However, this does mean that the town is often cut off by snow in the winter season. Despite this, when the roads are clear, the town is easy to get to because of the five roads which link the town to areas such as Weardale Valley. The town is composed of old houses with some outside stairways and a maze of narrow alleys. The central square of Alston was designed to be easily enclosed for defensive purposes and for livestock enclosure on market days.
Although farming and tourism have become important aspects of Alston, it is historically known for it being a thriving mining centre dating back to the Roman times which can be traced from the remains of Whitley Castle nearby. The Romans extracted silver and lead deposits in the high area of the South Tyne Valley. Its name is supposed to come 12th-13th Century in which it was known as Aldeneby and Aldeneston. It apparently means 'a settlement or farmstead belonging to the Halfdan (a Viking man)'. In later years, the rich mine owners were Quakers who were part of the Religious Society organisation of Friends which explains the 18th Century Quaker Meeting House on the main street. Many of the mines closed in the 1950s, seriously effecting the population numbers (in 1841, there were nearly 7,000 residents, now there are around 1,200) but a small drift mine located in the Ayle colliery was still open in 2013.
One landmark of Alston is the spire of the 19th Century parish church, St Augustine. The third church on site with records dating back to 1154. Its tower bells have some diverse history, one of the bells which was cast in 1714 allegedly belonged to the Earl of Derwentwater. Four of the bells were put in memory of Andrew Graham Stewart Steele, a churchwarden who was murdered on the 13th September 1949.
Several of Alston's attractions consist of the Pennine Way, a riverside walk from Alston to Garrigill, a tiny hamlet of cottages located in a hollow under Cross Moor. In the summer, the South Tynedale Railway runs from Alston for 1.5 miles through the beautiful scenery of the South Tyne Valley.
The area has also been used in media, for instance the Front Street and Market Cross of the town were used as filming locations for the 1997 adaptation of Jane Eyre as well as being adapted for the ITV miniseries Oliver Twist in order to resemble where Oliver was born.
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