Percy Tenantry Column

Statue Alnwick Northumberland

Percy Tenantry Column

Statue In Alnwick, Northumberland

A Doric style column with a Percy Lion on the top dedicated to the 2nd Earl of Northumberland.

The Percy Tenantry Column sits in a prominent location, just opposite what used to be Alnwick Station, and acted as a focal point for visitors to the town arriving by train. The column stands on top of a small hill overlooking the western end of Bondgate Without and was started in 1816 by the tenants of the 2nd Duke of Northumberland, Hugh Percy, as a thank you for reducing their rents during the depression that followed the Napoleonic Wars.

The Napoleonic Wars had been a bit of a boom period for farmers due to the increase in demand for food and as they could command more money for their produce the 2nd Duke doubled their rents accordingly. Following the end of the war in 1815, food prices crashed, and in an unusual show of aristocratic generosity, Hugh Percy, then one of the richest men in Britain, reduced their rents by 25%. To show their gratitude his tenants clubbed together and paid for the 25m high monument. Sadly the 2nd Duke did not live to see the column completed, although he did see the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone which was blessed and doused with corn, wine and oil.

The story goes that on seeing the column complete, the 3rd Duke of Northumberland, who had inherited the estate on the death of Hugh Percy, concluded that the tenants must be doing well and so raised their rents again. This has been shown not to be true but it has lead to the column's nickname of “The Farmers Folly”.

The column is of a Doric design, by Newcastle Architect David Stephenson, and has a base 27m in circumference with black marble plinths on which sit four lions. The column is topped by the Percy Lion, depicted “en passant” (striding), that sits on top of a drum decorated with foliage. The lion points towards Scotland but nobody seems to know why.

There is an inscription on one side of the column's base which states; 

"To Hugh, Duke of Northumberland K.G This column is Erected, Dedicated and Inscribed By a Grateful and United Tenantry Anno Domini MDCCCXVI”

Two other sides show the Percy Family motto “Esperance en dieu” (Hope is in God). The final side of the base is the access to the internal staircase.

Encased in a cavity in the base of the column lies the regimental roll of the Percy Tenantry Volunteers, who were a 1500 strong unit of the British Volunteer Corps that had been raised by the Duke, at his own expense, to help defend the north east from a potential French invasion. The roll is written on vellum and is sealed in a glass tube.

The Percy Tenantry Column was given listed building status by Historic England on the 20th February 1952 and in 1977 this was upgraded to the highest category of listing, Grade I.

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Where Is Percy Tenantry Column

Where Is It?

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55.410886, -1.69914
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Head south out of Greenwell Road and turn left onto the B6346, head along that road for a few hundred meters and the column can be seen directly opposite Barter Books.

Where To Park?

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55.41288, -1.702893

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There is ample parking nearby on Greenwell Road. Alternatively you can combine you visit with a trip to Barter Books and park there which is opposite the Column.

Andrew Gardner

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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