Keys to the Past

Local History

Langdon Beck (County Durham)

The hamlet of Langdon Beck lies high up Teesdale on the main road between Middleton-in-Teesdale and Alston.

The earliest remains from this area date as far back as prehistory. Although Mesolithic hunters are known to have come up into the North Pennines to hunt wild animal during the summer. However, they did not leave any traces in the area around Langdon Beck. Instead the first evidence dates to the Neolithic period. A number of stone axes have been found, including those at Sair Hill, Peghorn Lodge and Bowes Close. The latter was found beneath the floor of a house. It was probably buried here in the post-medieval period as a good luck charm.

These axes were probably left by the earliest farmers in this remote upland region. They may have used them to cut down trees before ploughing the first fields. Although, it is possible that they may have had a ritual purpose. There are few remains of any early buildings though. Traces of a small, stone building has been recorded at Dubby Sike; these probably date to the Bronze Age or Iron Age.

Despite the arrival of the Romans further down Teesdale and across on the Stainmore Pass in the 1st century AD they seem never to have spent much time as high up the dale as Langdon Beck. Life probably continued onwards in the same way as it had always done. It is possible that a small party of soldiers may have travelled up this way or local tribesmen may have travelled down to the forts at Greta Bridge or Bowes, but for the most part there was little change.

In the Anglo-Saxon and medieval period the area was probably dominated by sheep farming. Although little upstanding remains have survived in Langdon Beck itself we know that in surrounding area the shepherds probably took their sheep up to the high moors during the summer where the shepherds stayed in temporary shelters known as shielings. Later, post-medieval remains of sheep farming can be seen widely spread across the surrounding moors, such as the sheepfolds at Broad Edge and Redgillsike.

Although sheep farming continued to be important throughout the 18th and 19th century other industries began to rise to prominence. The most important was lead-mining. This was mainly controlled by the Quaker London Lead Company, which had its headquarters down the valley in Middleton-in-Teesdale. Lead mines stood at Langdon Head and a smelt mill stood at {Langdon Beck D4141}, though all that can be seen is a slight water channel. Another mine stood at Lady's Rake, one of the last lead mines run by the London Lead Company who built it in 1868, although lead had been mined here since at least 1828. The remains of a water-powered system for raising ore to the surface can still be seen. The blacksmith's building is also still standing and the remains of the mine shop also exist.

As well as the many remains of lead mining quarrying became increasingly significant. The quarries are too many to list, but the area is dotted with the remains of small quarries, some used for building stone, others for road stone.

Today apart from sheep farming tourism is perhaps the most important industry in the area. A Youth Hostel now stands in the valley and the hotel and Langdon Beck provides accommodation for walkers and other visitors many who come to see Cow Green reservoir or explore the Upper Teesdale Natural Reserve.

Reference number:D6852

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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.