Keys to the Past

Local History

Wolsingham (County Durham)

Wolsingham is located at the eastern end of Weardale.........

The village of Thornley lies close to Wolsingham in Weardale. Some of the medieval village probably lay around Thornley Hall, where the earthwork remains are still visible. A group of well-preserved earthwork enclosures can be seen, as well as fields containing ridge and furrow. The earliest reference to Thornley is in a land grant of 1070-80. In the mid 12th century a place of strength is recorded at Thornley, this is thought to be the site of the present Thornley Hall. The present Thornley Hall was built in the 18th century. Inside two rooms, some cellars and a doorway are all that survives of the earlier building.

The earliest buildings in the village date to about 1700. Some were originally single-story buildings with second floors added at a later date. The original school, now a private dwelling was built in 1824 but used as the school masters house after 1845 when a larger school (now the Village Hall) was built to accommodate 70 children.

A survey of the possessions of the Bishop of Westmorland from 1569 records that a 16th century coal mine was in existence although no trace of this can now be found. The main growth of coalmining was in the later 18th and 19th centuries. The main 18th century pit was probably Thornley Colliery which actually lay on the north side of the B6299, between Tow Law and the present Helme Park Filling Station. Pit House Farm probably lies very close to the pit site.

By the 19th century Thornley had a church, a school, a few farm houses and some good cottages. Inhabitants included a shoemaker, a builder, a blacksmith, a butcher, a joiner, a shopkeeper, and a publican,

The church was built in 1838 as a simple stone building. It was originally a chapel for the nearby church at Wolsingham. It was almost doubled in size in 1842 and altered to give a Gothic appearance. The altar rail, given by the congregation in 1865, is made of the local Frosterley marble, as is the font, which was found broken in a Wolsingham garden and repaired before being installed. In 1891, the tower, octagonal steeple and outer door were added.

Those of the parish who served and fell in the World Wars are commemorated on various memorials in the area. Two memorial crosses in Wolsingham and Thornley Village are centrally located and serve as the focal point for each settlement during annual remembrance services whilst many of the local churches contain Rolls of Honour, books of remembrance and plaques dedicated to individuals from each area who fought and died in the wars. One particularly interesting memorial can be found in the grounds of Wolsingham Grammar School. A line of oak trees was planted around 1918 to commemorate fallen soldiers from the First World War, then after the Second World War a line of trees was planted in commemoration of fallen soldeirs from that conflict which were grown from acorns of the adult WW1 memorial trees.

Reference number:D44404
Event(s):The identification of Historic Landscapes in Durham Project; Chris Blandford Associates

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Please note that this information has been compiled from a number of different sources. Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council can accept no responsibility for any inaccuracy contained therein. If you wish to use/copy any of the images, please ensure that you read the Copyright information provided.