High Coniscliffe (County Durham)
The parish of Coniscliffe, which comprises the townships of High or Church Coniscliffe, and Low Coniscliffe, is bounded on the north by Heighington, on the west by Gainford, on the south by the river Tees, and on the east by Darlington. It stands on the edge of a long ridge fo limestone rock, about half a mile from the north bank of the River Tees. At this point the drop down from the top of the ridge is very steep. It is this drop that provides the -cliffe part of the village's name. The first half of the name probably comes from the Old Norse for 'King'- suggesting that the village name means 'King's Cliff'.
The earliest archaeological discovery in the area is a small copper tool found here in 1991. Its purpose is unknown, though it seems to have possibly been some kind of hole punch. It is thought to date to the Bronze Age- by this time much of the surrounding area would have been settled by simple farming communities.
The village is only a few miles to the north of the Roman town and small fort at Piercebridge. Not surprisingly, a number of fragments of Roman pottery have been found here. These may have marked the site of a small settlement, or may have been from a Roman rubbish heap scattered on the fields as fertilizer. An unusual stone carving, which can be seen in the village church, may be of Roman date. It includes two winged figures standing either side of an animal. It is probably a Roman dedication stone, probably from Piercebridge, which has been recarved in the Anglo-Saxon period.
This is not the only evidence of Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area. The village is recorded in documents dating to 778, and as we have already seen, the modern name of the village is probably of Viking origin. Although the current church is of late 12th or 13th century date, several pieces of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture of 10th and 11th century date have been built into the walls. This makes it likely that there was an earlier church at this site. The nearby village of Ulnaby was also probably founded in the early medieval period, as its name also comes from the Old Norse language. Little survives at Ulnaby now, apart from several earth banks and rectangular earthworks, which surround Ulnaby Hall. A barn near the hall may once have been a Norman chapel, though no traces of this chapel can be seen today.
Another important medieval house is now the farmhouse of Old Hall Farm. Although the building is mainly of late 17th century date, though the north-west wing is thought to be a 13th century bastle, built as a defence against raids from Scotland.
Eight men of the parish are known to have died in the First World War and they are commemorated on a war memorial plaque in St. Edwin's Church on the south side of The Green.
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