This Northumbrian market town on the south bank of the River Aln was a staging post on the Great North Road between Edinburgh and London. The town’s castle was the home of the most powerful medieval northern baronial family, the Earls of Northumberland. In support of his ‘rural renaissance’ thesis Richard Pears estimates that £70,000 to £80,000 were spent by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland on their restoration of Alnwick Castle after 1755 which amounts to between 7 and 8 million pounds in today’s money.

These aristocrats were patrons of the actor-manager Stephen Kemble who opened a theatre in the town in the summer of 1796. They had been absent for the previous four years and Kemble’s visit was timed to coincide with their arrival. A large company of sixty-two dined at the castle in early September and four families remained as visitors for several days. On 10 September Kemble presented The English Merchant and Children in the Woods commanded by the Duke of Northumberland. Kemble probably constructed a fit-up theatre somewhere in the town for his visit. An undated playbill promoting Stordy’s company at Alnwick from the early 1790s advertises that a performance of John Home’s Douglas was held in the town hall. A later playbill from 1812 advertises performances at a theatre in Bondgate Street by another strolling company.

The political agitator George Greive was the son of an Alnwick attorney and an associate of Thomas Slack, the proprietor of the Newcastle Chronicle. Rachel Hammersley argues that Jean-Paul Marat’s known connections to Newcastle-upon-Tyne were most likely developed by his friendship with Greive.