Little is known about life in the Ford & Etal area during prehistoric times but the presence of ‘cup and ring’ marks carved out of rock near Ford suggest that there was a Bronze Age community there.
There are no records of houses at Ford or Etal during Anglo-Saxon times but it is thought that Ford was probably a crossing place for monks and nuns travelling between the monasteries at Iona and Lindisfarne.
The history of Ford & Etal really starts with the Norman conquest in 1066 and the introduction of the manorial system. By the 14th century lordship of the manors was held by the Manners family at Etal and the Heron family at Ford. These were turbulent times with cross border warfare between the English and the Scots and neighbouring families in conflict with each other – certainly the Manners and Herons were bitter rivals, each attacking the others’ castle.
Ford & Etal lands include the site of the Battle of Flodden fought between the English and Scots armies on 9th September 1513. This was the last decisive battle between the two nations with James IV of Scotland being slain, together with about 9000 of his men. Ford and Etal featured heavily in the run-up to the battle with Ford Castle being taken by the Scots army on its way to Flodden and King James staying at Ford Castle prior to the battle.
After Flodden, peace came to the area and by the 19th century Ford & Etal were thriving communities supporting large populations involved in agriculture, forestry and associated occupations. In 1859, Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, inherited Ford Estate on the death of her husband. Lady Waterford transformed Ford with a new schoolroom and housing for her tenants and the introduction of a nurse to Ford Village for their welfare.
In 1907, the 1st Baron Joicey of Chester-le-Street, the highly successful owner of coalmines in Durham, purchased Ford Estate and, in 1908, purchased Etal thus uniting the Estates under one ownership for the first time in history. Today the Estates remain in the ownership of the Joicey family.
The Battle of Flodden Field was Scotland's greatest defeat. It is believed that 10,000 were killed at the hands of the English, including King James IV and a large proportion of his earls and nobles. It was the last occasion on which a reigning monarch was killed in battle in Great Britain. Flodden has left a strong legacy in this border area, where many sites connected to the battle still exist and where traditions such as the Common Ridings in the Border towns recall the tragedy.