Keys to the Past

Local History

Cockfield (County Durham)

The parish of Cockfield lies just to the north of Barnard Castle, not far from Middleton-in-Teesdale. To the north of the village of Cockfield runs Cockfield Fell, a large tract of land about 2 miles from east to west; it is bounded on its northern edge by the valley of the river Gaunless. This was common land, which was shared between the landowners of the parish. It was once worked for coal, but by the late 19th century most of the coal had been mined out, and instead Cockfield Fell became dominated by quarries from which whinstone was taken for use in road making.

The smaller village of Woodland lies to the north-west of Cockfield village. In the 19th century this was a centre of coalmining, and several collieries existed in this area.

A number of earthworks can still be seen on the broad open spaces of Cockfield Fell. One rectangular enclosuremay have been of Roman date, though it is difficult to date such simple sites. Other enclosures, some circular may be the remains of simple medieval dwellings.

A church was built in Cockfield village in the late 12th or early 13th century, though most of this building has now been rebuilt. Inside the church the stone effigy of a young girl is visible. By the time of the English Civil War the church was recorded as being in poor condition. It is possible that at the same period a number of soldiers killed in a battle at nearby Raby Castle were placed in a mass grave in the parish.

It is of 14th century date. Although Cockfield Hall is of 17th century date, it is surrounded by a moat, which suggests that the site was originally medieval in date. It is likely that the medieval owners of Cockfield Hall gained much of their wealth from the coal mines on Cockfield Fell. Cockfield and Woodlands were not the only settlements in this area in the medieval period, and it is probably that a small village, now deserted, stood at Keverstone.

One of the most famous local families were the Dixons- the descendants of the 17th century steward of Raby Castle. One family member, George Dixon, owned coal mines and invented coal gas. His brother Jeremiah surveyed the boundaries of Pennsylvania and Maryland with Charles Mason, marking out the so-called Mason-Dixon Line.

The village has a memorial cross dedicated to those of the area who served in the First World War and WW2. St. Mary's Church and Cockfield Methodist Church also contain war memorials dedicated to parishioners and individuals who served in world conflicts.

Reference number:D6766

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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.