Keys to the Past

Local History

Hunstanworth (County Durham)

The village of Hunstanworth lies in the very north of Durham close to the border with Northumberland. It is just to the south of Blanchland, the site of an important medieval monastery. It is close to a particularly beautiful stretch of the River Derwent.

Sadly, no prehistoric remains have been found in this area. In fact the first records for the area date only 1291. However, the name of the village comes from the Old English for 'Hunstan's enclosed farm' suggesting that there must have been a settlement since at least the late Anglo-Saxon period. However, little survives of this early village as it was completely rebuilt in 1862-3. Work carried out in the surrounding area has found the remains of medieval field systems in Nookton East Park. Another important medieval site are the ruined remains of a small fortified tower at the west end of the churchyard. It had been built during the medieval period as a house for the vicar and to protect him from raiders from Scotland. It had an arched roof, which had survived in perfect condition until it collapsed in 1883.

In the 18th century, as in much of the North Pennines, the area became dominated by lead mining. Although earlier lead mining is known in the Ramshaw valley, possibly by agents of the Duke of Buckingham in the 17th century and by the London Lead Company in the 18th century, the visible remains all relate to the 19th century mining of the valley by the Derwent Lead Mining Company. The Company appointed John Taylor, one of the most accomplished mining engineers of his day to develop and run the mines. He introduced both technology and miners from Cornwall. One notable innovation was the extensive use of waterpower through dams and wheels which used iron flatrods to power pumps and machinery. The site contains many notable examples of lead mining technology, of especial note are the serpentine flue system from Jeffery's Smelt Mill, and the use of water power already noted above. Lead extraction declined markedly in the late 19th century but the White He]aps mine continued producing fluorspar until the 1980s.

Other important lead mines lay at Beldon. Beldon Lead Mine Beldon lead mine and ore works is situated on two levels on the floor of the narrow Beldon Burn . The site mostly lies within Northumberland but it's western end extends into County Durham. The Beldon mine worked a number of small veins but the full extent of the workings is not clear. The visible remains of the lead mine and ore works belong to two distinct periods. The first ran from the 18th century until 1820 when it was closed. Around 1805 significant investment took place when it is though that a Boulton and a Watt steam engine was installed. The lower courses of the engine shed building still survive on site. A separate phase of working began during the 1860s but this only lasted a few years and the site closed in the 1870s.

However, all the lead mining industry has now disappeared, and the area has returned to its tranquil rural way of life.

Hunstanworth is the only village in County Durham to hold the title of a "Thankful Village", owing to the fact that all of its residents who went to fight in the First World War returned safely home. It is one of only 51 villages in the UK with this title. Of the 5 soldiers from Hunstanworth, four of them were brothers and a memorial dedicated to them can be found in St. James' Church.

Reference number:D6837
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.