Keys to the Past

Local History

Hawthorn (County Durham)

The village of Hawthorn lies on a slight rise half a mile north of Easington. The North Sea runs along the eastern edge of the parish. Much of the coastal area, known as Hawthorn Dene, is particularly attractive and the land is owned by the National Trust.

A large number of prehistoric flint tools have been found along the coast. Most of these are thought to be Mesolithic in date. These are probably all that survive of the simple temporary camps used by these early settlers. They probably camped near the shore so that they could collect food, such as shell fish and sea weeds from the beach, as well as catch fish offshore. They would also have hunted wild animals and gathered wild plants inland. These settlers were able to reach the coast, despite the cliffs along the coast, by getting to the beach by following a dene, a narrow coastal valley, caused by rivers and streams that once ran to the coast, when much of County Durham was covered by a huge lake.

Despite these early remains, there are few other survivals of early occupation until the medieval period. The village exisrted by this period and the traces of early buildings can still be seen as earthworks to the south of the modern village. A sunken road leads to the site of Hawthorn Mill. It is possible that the boundaries of some of the fields in this area may also be of medieval date.

The area remained mainly rural throughout the post-medieval period. However, the increase of industry nearby led to a rise in the amount of shipping running along the east coast. The trade was mainly in coal and industrial goods between Newcastle and London. The increase in shipping also led to an increase in ship wrecks. The sites of the wrecks of the 'Miss Thomas', the 'Sirius' and the 'Rainbow' are still known. A number of measures were taken to prevent such disasters. A coastguard station was built at Hawthorn Hythe and rocket posts were placed at Hawthorn Dene.

The parish contains a number of sites associated with the First World War and coastal defence during WW2. The church of St. Michael and All Angels has a number of features within that are dedicated to those individuals of the church who served in each of the two World Wars whilst a memorial cross in the churchyard provides a focal point for remembrance of those of the collective parish who served. Stretching down the coastline of the parish south of Dawdon are a number of pillboxes used during the defence of the coast in the Second World War whilst slightly inland at Kinley Hill there are the remains of a WW2 Radar Station. A shipwreck off the coast is suspected as belonging to the British cargo vessel 'Thames', torpedoed and sunk by german submarine UC17 during WW1.

Reference number:D6817
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.