Keys to the Past

Local History

Cotherstone (County Durham)

The village of Cotherstone lies in Teesdale at the point the River Balder joins with the Tees. It is just downstream from Romaldkirk, and only about 4km from Barnard Castle. There is a small network of lanes and passageways still stand around the village greens. Many of the older houses in the village were farmhouses and cottages, built in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Above the village lies Cotherstone Moor. It is here that some of the earliest remains in the area have been found. It is here that the earliest remains in this area can be found. The moor is particularly rich in the mysterious prehistoric rock carvings known as cup and ring marks. These were probably carved in the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age, and may well have had some religious meaning. A whole series of these decorated rocks can be found around Goldsborough Rigg. Apart from these carvings, there are other reminders of prehistory, such as the Bronze Age ring cairn at Goldsborough. Nearer the village flint tools have been found. One Bronze Age stone axe was even built into an 18th century barn, possibly to ward of bad luck.

Like many areas of Upper Teesdale the arrival of the Romans in the 1st century AD appear to have little effect on local life. No roads ran through the area and the nearest Roman fort of any size would have been at Greta Bridge. Cotherstone appears to have remained quiet in the Anglo-Saxon period, although the name of the village itself is Old English - it was first recorded as Cudrestone in the Domesday Book, and is thought to mean 'Cuthere's farmstead'. Beyond this placename little survives. A fragment of a stone cross of 8th or 9th century date was found built into a barn at Thwaite Hall, however it is not known where it originally came from, and it may not have come from the village. It has also been suggested a settlement, up on the moor at West Loups may have been used during this period, though there is little hard evidence for this.

The village became more important in the medieval period. A castle was built about 1090. This was one of a line of castles surrounding the entrance to Teesdale. The remains of the earth mound can still be seen. A small chapel was built nearby, though nothing can be seen here now. Part of the surrounding countryside was turned into a deerpark, though this was turned back into farmland in 1626.

Cotherstone and Cotherstone Moor remained a quiet rural area, which was not changed, even by the presence of a small Coalmine. A small lead mine also stood on the Cotherstone Moor, and the remains of hushes and leats can still be seen. Other important remains that can be seen in the area include the ruins of Balder Mill, which was probably built in the 17th or early 18th century. Unfortunately, the nearby manor house has now disappeared. Many of the older houses in Cotherstone were typical stone farmhouses of late 17th or early 18th century date. However, with the arrival of the mines and the growth of industry further downstream the Tees a number of large houses were built by 19th century industrialists. Once the railway arrived in 1868 the village expanded and several rows of terraced houses and larger Victorian and Edwardian houses were constructed.

In the early 20th century Cotherstone became increasingly well known for its cheese making. Cotherstone cheese is similar to Wensleydale and may have been made in the area since the 17th century. The most famous maker of Cotherstone cheese was Mrs Birkett, cheese maker at West Park until 1940. There are still several local producers of the cheese in the area.

Reference number:D6771
Event(s):Heart of Teesdale Project Heritage Audit; North of England Civic Trust

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.