Keys to the Past

Local History

Bradbury (County Durham)

The small village of Bradbury stands on the River Skerne, two and half miles to the west of Sedgefield. The surrounding area is known as the Isles, as when the river floods there are a number of small islands of land, which remain above the floodwaters. The largest of these 'isles' is Great Isle on which Great Isle farm stands.

No prehistoric remains have been found in this area. This is possibly because the area was so liable to flooding. Early settlers would undoubtedly have used the river and the surrounding marshy areas as a source of food, but the risk of long-lasting floods would have prevented them from settling here permanently. It is possible that there may have been a little settlement on the 'isles' but if so, this has not been found. No hard archaeological remains have even been found from the Roman period. Although the course of the Roman road from Great Stainton to Chester-le-Street is though to run through the area, its actual remains have not been found.


The first surviving archaeological and historical remains date to the medieval period. Great Isle was the home to the Lords of Bradbury and Isle, and the remains of a medieval chapel can still be seen. The hall and other buildings at this site were first recorded in the 16th century, but there was undoubtedly earlier habitation. Although the main settlements in the parish are Bradbury and Little Isle, there was once a village at Nunstainton. It was known as Stainton-upon-Skerne. This was first mentioned in the 12th century, when it belonged to nuns from Nun Monkton, near York. A small chapel was recorded in the village, but its location has now been lost.

Bradbury and the surrounding area remained a rural area. The main farm appears to have been at Great Isle, and a water mill existed there in 1471 and two water mills in 1636. The present buildings are mainly of 17th century date, with 19th century alterations. The only real changes to the area have come from increasing transport links. In the mid-19th century the main railway line and the Chilton branch of the Clarence Railway were built, and in the mid-20th century the course of the main northern road was replaced, and rebuilt as the dual-carriagewayed A1 (M), which runs between Bradbury and Great and Little Isle.

Reference number:D6749

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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.