Keys to the Past

Local History

Ettersgill (County Durham)

The village of Ettersgill lies in Upper Teesdale. It is more or less due north of the famous waterfall of High Force, up a narrow valley. It was once part of the parish of Middleton-in-Teesdale and is now part of the parish of Forest and Frith. Whilst the village itself is on a valley bottom, most of the area is the upland area of Ettersgill Common.

There is little evidence for the early history of this area. It is likely that the area had been settled by Vikings, as the place name comes from the Old Norse for 'Etard's narrow valley (gill)'.

It is only in the post-medieval period that we can start to understand the history and economy of the area better. It is clear that most of the area was dominated by hill sheep farming, and the remains of sheepfolds can be seen on Ettersgill Common and Wester Beck. However, it is clear that simple mining was also important. Although there is evidence for coal pits and clay at East Binks edge, the most important mining industry was lead mining. Many of the lead mines in the area were controlled by the London Lead Company. The remains of a number of lead mines can be seen, such as at Gill Shopand Westerhead.

There is also other evidence for a contrasting use of the open moorland above the village: grouse shooting. Hunting game birds became an increasingly important pastime in the 19th century, and it is still an important part of the local economy. However, local lead miners often used to poach the birds to supplement their meagre wages. This meant that gamekeepers had to keep round the clock watch on their birds. One of the watch houses which they used can still be seen. Another building at Blacklaw Edge may be also have been used by gamekeepers for the same purpose.


Reference number:D6790

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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.