Keys to the Past

Local History

Kirk Merrington (County Durham)

Kirk Merrington, a village north east of Bishop Auckland, near Ferryhill and Spennymoor. A large number of prehistoric flint tools have been in the fields around the village. The earliest group date to the Mesolithic period- these may have been the hunting tools used by early settlers in this area. These people would have lived through hunting wild animals and collecting wild plants. Farming did not begin until the Neolithic and Bronze Age period. Some of the other flints found around Kirk Merrington may have dated to this later period. However, although many tools and objects have been found there have been no discoveries of early burials or prehistoric settlements.

Despite these traces of prehistory we know little about Kirk Merrington until the medieval period, though the name of the village includes the Old Norse word for church ('Kirk') and the Old English words meaning 'farmstead of the people of Merra'. These both show that there was a settlement in or around the present village in the later Anglo-Saxon period (8th-10th centuries AD).

The church at Kirk Merrington is situated on a high ridge with good views of the surrounding Durham countryside. In 1143 the building witnessed an unusual siege in which William Cumin, a notorious usurper Bishop of Durham, was captured by Roger Conyers, a Durham baron. Cumin had taken refuge in the church, because of its naturally defended location, with extensive views of the surounding enemy countryside - good views can still be obtained today. The usurper had been able to maintain his false claim to the bishop's throne for three years, during which time he had violently ruled and terrorised the palatinate of Durham under the encouragement of King David of Scotland.

The village has long been associated with the Eden family. Members have included Sir Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister of Britain (1955-57), who was born at the nearby family seat of Windlestone in 1897. Windlestone Hall is also associated with Sir Timothy Eden, author of an excellent two volume history of Durham, published in the 1950s.

Reference number:D6849

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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.