Keys to the Past

Local History

Barforth (County Durham)

The parish of Barforth stands in Teesdale, just on the south bank of the river. It is about half way between Darlington and Barnard's Castle.

The earliest evidence for settlement in the parish probably dates to the Iron Age. The remains of at least two enclosures surrounded by slight earth banks can still be seen in the area. One is roughly oval in shape and one is rectangular. Another oval and rectangular enclosure have been recorded, though they are now missing. These enclosures probably surrounded simple farmsteads; their occupants probably grew crops and reared animals in the surrounding area. There were probably settlers in the area before the Iron Age, they did not surround their homes with earth enclosures, and so they have not survived, either as upstanding remains or cropmarks.

This area of Durham was occupied by the Romans between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. The small Roman fort and village at Piercebridge is not far to the east, but little certain evidence of Roman remains have been found in Barforth. It is possible that the rectangular enclosures of Iron Age date may have continued to be used in the Roman period. It is possible that a small square cropmark {D413} visible on aerial photographs of the parish may be the remains of a small Roman fort.

Although certain remains of early medieval or Anglo-Saxon remains have been found in Barforth, its name comes from the Old English for 'barley ford' suggesting that there may have been a crossing point through the river nearby. The village of Gainford lies just the other side of the river to the north, and was certainly an important Anglo-Saxon settlement. It is possible that the inhabitants farmed crops, including barley, in the area of Barforth.


The village was also mentioned in the Domesday Book, and the village is also mentioned in historic records dating to between 1301 and 1334. However, by 1517 the population was declining, and there is now no village here. The earthworks. The of the medieval village are however still visible. The earth enclosures and platforms show the probable sites of the houses. The old manor houseis still used as a farmhouse. It was probably built in the 15th or 16th century. Close to the manor house stands a very fine example of a 16th or 17th century dovecote. Nearby are the ruined remains of St Lawrence's Chapel, built in the 12th century. It was extended in the 13th century, but fell out of use as a church in the late 16th century.

Reference number:D6642
Legal status:Scheduled Monument
  • National Heritage List for England Entry Number: 1017319
Event(s):Heart of Teesdale Project Heritage Audit; North of England Civic Trust

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Disclaimer -

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.