Keys to the Past

Local History

Dalton-le-Dale (County Durham)

The village of Dalton-le-Dale lies in the east of County Durham close to the North Sea coast, just to the west of Seaham. Although many important prehistoric remains have been found nearby, there is no surviving evidence of settlement in Dalton-le-Dale until the Anglo-Saxon period. The first part of the village name- Dalton - comes from the Old English for 'farmstead in a valley' (Dael-tun). 'Le Dale' was added in the medieval period to distinguish it from another Dalton - Dalton Piercy.
Although the present church is mainly of 13th century date, the presence of a fragment of Anglo-Saxon stone cross of 8th or 9th century shows that there must have been a church on this site from around this date. It is likely that a small village grew up around it. Indeed this village was probably described by the Venerable Bede when he recorded a cluster of 'ten households round the Guildhall of Witmar, Saxon Thegn and Soldier of Christ'.

St Andrew's church was clearly rebuilt in the Norman period and the remains of a door of this date can still be seen. However, it was again rebuilt in the 13th century. Around this period it became the burial place of the important Bowes and Collingwood families, and the two stone effigies, which can be seen inside, may belong to these families. In this period the parish was much larger than it is now and it covered the neighbouring villages of Cold Hesledon, Dalden and Morton-in-the-Whins.

Although the presence of a windmill on a map of the area drawn in 1840 shows that the area continued to mainly be an agricultural area, coalmines were sunk nearby, particularly once Seaham Harbour developed, allowing the coal to be shipped to the south. The nearest colliery was Murton Colliery, which was originally called Dalton New Winning; this was sunk between 1838 and 1843. This led to the growth of a new village at Murton which eventually came to overtake Dalton in size, and the new church built there in 1875 was placed over St Andrew's church. One of the more famous, or infamous, people to be baptised at Dalton was Margaret Jane Mowbray, who is better known as Mary Ann Cotton. She is believed to have been one of Britain's most prolific murderers, and is though to have killed over 21 people by poison. She was executed in Durham Prison in 1873 for the killing of her stepson Charles Edward Cotton at West Auckland.

Those of the village who served in the First World War and WW2 are commemorated on war memorials in the parish church of St. Andrew. The WW1 memorial is in the form of a plaque with the names of those who served listed in three columns whilst the WW2 memorial is dedicated to the local crew of an plane lost on RAF operations.

Reference number:D6777
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.