Keys to the Past

Local History

Horden (County Durham)

The village lies on the east coast of Durham, to the south of Easington Colliery and east of Peterlee. It stands close to one of the many 'denes' - narrow valleys - that run down to the sea along this part of the Durham coast.

In earliest prehistory the first settlers of this area used these valleys to reach the beaches, where they fished, collected shell fish and hunted sea birds. The sites of their temporary camps probably stood where small scatters of flint tools have been discovered. These camps were probably only used for part of the year- in the warm summer months they may have moved to the uplands of the North Pennines, where they could have hunted bigger wild animals.

Despite these very early discoveries, little is known about the area before the medieval period. It is likely though that there was a village here during the early middle ages. The name of the village, Horden, was first recorded in 1050; it is thought to mean 'filthy valley' in Old English. Prior to the 19th century an agricultural community existed around the main building of Horden Hall, a small manor house built around 1630.

Like elsewhere in East Durham the area became dominated by coal mining in the 19th century, and new buildings were built to house the many coal miners that moved into the area. Horden Colliery was built in 1900 to work the coal seams under the North Sea. The mine was served by three shafts, the North and East Pits, both to the Hutton seam at 1,196 feet, and the South Pit, 1,083 feet deep to the Low Main Seam.

Despite the growth of collieries agriculture remained important and several limekilns were built, probably to supply lime to improve the quality of local soil. The church of St Mary was built in 1912 by a local landowner, Colonel Burdon, It is cross shaped and when it was built was thought to be one of the most beautiful modern churches in County Durham.

Over 160 men of Horden were killed on active service during the First World War and their names are recorded on various memorials around the town. A large clock tower within the memorial park serves as a reminder of those who fell for their country, as does the brick-built cenotaph in St. Mary's Cemetery. Elsewhere a memorial Miner's Hall was built to commemorate miners who served in the conflict and to serve as a social building for subsequent generations. Off the coast there are also sites to remind us of the perils of wartime Britain, including the wreck site of the steam cargo ship 'Stewarts Court', torpedoed by a German submarine in 1918 some five miles out from the coast.

During World War II it was thought that the north-east might be the target of a German invasion so defences were built along much of the coast line. A concrete pillbox was built at the junction of Warren House Gill and Ash Gill, and it is thought that one of the lime kilns was also turned into a gun emplacement.

Reference number:D6833

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