Keys to the Past

Local History

Brignall (County Durham)

O Brignall's Banks are wild and fair
And Greta's woods are green.

Walter Scott

The parish of Brignall lies in the south of County Durham on the south bank of the River Greta, not far from Barnard Castle.

Although a Neolithic stone axe has been found there are few other early remains. This does not mean that prehistoric settlers did not live in this area, merely that their remains have not yet been found. There is certainly evidence from the prehistoric period from neighbouring parishes.

The village name. Brignall, is probably of Anglo-Saxon origin. It is believed to come from the Old English word 'briggen' meaning 'bridges'. This clearly suggests that the village probably grew up around a crossing point over the river Greta. The medieval village of Brignall was larger than it is now. Although it was recorded in the Domesday Book as mostly being wasteland, by 1265 it had been given permission to hold an annual and a weekly market. In the times of Henry VIII during the early 16th century the Lord of the Manor, James Philip, was the King's steward. He was reported to be very harsh, and often quarrelled with his neighbours. Curiously, in 1789 two lead tablets were found hidden in a round barrow on Gaterley Moor. On one side they were covered in curious symbols, and on the other a curse on James Philip and his family was written. Strangely enough, the family soon died out!

The site of the ruined {church D13089} is some distance away from the modern village. The ruins probably built in the 13th century, though a fragment of a possible Anglo-Saxon stone cross show that there was probably once an earlier church here. The village shrunk in size in the 16th and 17th century - the remains of some of the earlier, medieval buildings are still visible as earthworks.

The parish is an agricultural area- traces of medieval farming can be seen around the village. By 1712 at least four mills were recorded in the village; the remains of one corn mill can still be seen.

Reference number:D6752
Event(s):Heart of Teesdale Project Heritage Audit; North of England Civic Trust

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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.