Keys to the Past

Local History

Belmont (County Durham)

Because of population increases due to industrial development, Belmont Parish was formed in 1852 from the greater part of St Giles Parish to which its earlier history belongs. It consisted of Ravensflatt and most of the Kepier hospital manor lands of Caldecotes and Clifton, which were 12th century endowments by the bishops Flambard and Du Puiset for the upkeep of the hospital. Ravensflatt remained with "the Prior and Convent of Durham" until granted to the University following its foundation, and was sold in the 1960s for modern development. When the civil parish was formed in 1894, an area of Pittington (Hallgarth) Parish was added, and this was incorporated into the ecclesiastical parish in 1920.

Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the hospital and its lands passed into secular hands. By 1568 it was in the possession of the Heath family, and the Clifton manor had become divided into two granges, known as Low Grange and Ramside. When Ramside was purchased by Thomas Pemberton in 1820, he demolished the old Grange house and erected a new building which he called Belmont Hall. The estate surrounding the new Hall was now larger than the original Ramside grange of Clifton, including part of Caldecotes on the west, and a small area of Pittington parish on the east. This enlarged estate became known as Belmont from the name given to the new mansion, and when the Parish came into existence in 1852, its Church built on land donated from the estate, it too assumed its name.

The first railway, forming part of the first main line south, was opened in 1844, and effectively divided the Belmont estate. Today, it still forms a boundary, with the housing development of Carrville on the west. To the east in the 1960s, when the Pembertons sold their Hall and remaining estate, the Hall became an hotel and its ancient name of Ramside was restored. More recently, the estate has been developed as a 27-hole golf course.

The Belmont branch from the new railway, only two miles long and built at the same time, terminated in Gilesgate at Durham City's first passenger station. This became goods only in 1857 when the Leamside branch to Bishop Auckland, crossing the Wear by Belmont viaduct, gave Durham its present station, and from where a link with Sunderland was later established. All lines through the parish are now closed, though some track remains in position, and plans exist to re-open the 'old main line'.

When about 1829 a colliery was sunk on the eastern fringe of the Belmont estate in Pittington Parish and a village was built for its pitmen, the estate gave its name to each of them. Thus the original village of Belmont was located in Pittington Parish. Only two of its houses now survive, as one dwelling at the location known as The Rift, while the remainder, and the site of the colliery they served, are now the 16th hole of Ramside golf course.

During the 19th century, Low Grange came into the ownership of the Londonderry family, which exploited its coal reserves. The ancient manor of Caldecotes had become known as High Grange, and was divided among various ownerships. Pits were sunk in a number of locations, including Kepier and Gilesgate Moor, much of which is now occupied by post-Second World War housing and the prestige Belmont industrial site. At Ravensflatt, the Durham motorway separates the modern housing at Belmont from the large Dragonville industrial estate.

During the First World War many inhabitants of Belmont contributed to the war effort, many serving and falling on active service. They are commemorated on a war memorial obelisk in the churchyard of St. Mary's Church. A firing range was also located at the nearby Kepier Butts that may well have been used as a military training site prior to and during the conflict.

Reference number:D6648
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.