Haydon Bridge derived its name from the Saxon words signifying an enclosed place (Haydon) and because of its crossing of the South Tyne. To the north of the village is the small church of Haydon, believed to have been erected about 1190. Its chantry chapel dates from the 14th century. Many of the facing stones and quoins are Roman and are believed to have been obtained from neighbouring Roman ruins. Occasional special services are still held here. The church in the village is dedicated to St. Cuthbert and was erected in 1796. It is a plain, neat structure with a small square tower. A First School, originally founded as a Grammar school, bears the name of Shaftoe after its founder whose name is also famous from a local folk song, Bobby Shaftoe.
Haydon Bridge also has connections with the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745 for James and Charles, Viscounts Langley and Earls of Derwentwater who lived at Langley Castle, took part in the uprising and were beheaded for treason on Tower Hill in London. Langley Castle, now a hotel, is a couple of miles south of the town.
Several writers are associated with the area. Philip Larkin often stayed at one of the terraced cottages overlooking the river in Haydon Bridge. The cottage was owned by his close friend, Catherine Cookson, the famous novelist of Tyneside and Northumberland life in the early part of the 20th century, who lived for several years at nearby Langley.
John Martin, painter of delicate water colours and huge dramatic canvases in oils, was born at East Lands End Farm in Haydon Bridge in 1789, son of ‘a roving man of various occupations’ and a mother possibly descended from Bishop Nicholas Ridley. His first picture, entitled ‘Sadak’ was exhibited at the Royal Academy when he was only 23. For more than 40 years he continued to produce historical works and wild landscapes some of which can be seen in the Laing Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne.