Keys to the Past

Local History

Low Dinsdale (County Durham)

Low Dinsdale is a small village lying in a bend of the River Tees. The village of Over Dinsdale lies just across the river and is joined with Low Dinsdale by a bridge.The town of Darlington is about five miles to the north-west. Although its population is almost exclusively rural, and it appears secluded at the present time, it possesses considerable historical interest.

The earliest remains to have been found in this area are two Bronze Age stone axes. Both were found near the church; one in a neighbouring field and the other close to the church boundary wall. It is possible that these two aexes may once have been part of a hoard of similar axes. These may have been buried here for a religious reason. Bronze axes were also probably used for clearing fields in preparation for farming and carrying out simple carpentry work, perhaps to build simple wooden round houses.

Despite these two early discoveries we know little about the parish until the Anglo-Saxon period. Although the village of Low Dinsdale was first recorded in 1185, as Ditneshal, it is likely that the name is of early medieval origin. The 'din' part may have meant that the village belonged to a Viking - a Dane. Alternatively, it may have meant that the village once belonged to the village of Deighton, just over the Tees in North Yorkshire. In addition, Siward, Earl of Northumberland, called by William of Malmesbury, Earl Siward Digera, and who died in 1055, is traditionally connected with this place, though the historical evidence for this is uncertain, and Siward is thought to be buried in York.

It is clear that the village church was of Anglo-Saxon or Viking origin. Eight fragments of Anglo-Saxon (410 to 1066) crosses are built into the porch of the church. They date to the 9th to 11th centuries AD. They include two cross-heads, one with two birds upon it and the other with interlace patterns. One fragment of a cross-shaft has the lower portion of a panel bearing two human figures. The chancel contains the greater part of a hogback stone, at either end of which is a muzzled bear. In the churchyard is the lower portion of the shaft of a large cross, with roughly carved interlace on a large scale. Nearby is a possibly pre-1066 stone coffin and lid of huge size, with a large cross carved upon it.

The current church building appears to have been built in the late 12th century. It is built of red sandstone, and was heavily altered in 1875-6 and again in 1905. It still contains medieval (1066 to 1540) grave-slabs and a medieval water basin.

The manor house of Dinsdale is mentioned in 1537. However, the present house is 18th century in date. It stands within a moat and a number of earthworks. Excavations in 1878 revealed the remains of a 12th century gatehouse. The old manor house, which occupies a low and sheltered situation near the river, now serves as a farmhouse. A stone, inserted in the wall, on the left side of the door, bears the arms of the Place family.

Archaeological excavations took place in the village in the late 19th century, though they were poorly recorded. It is believed that a possible pottery kiln was found, and a large amount of pottery was discovered. This may have been where Tees Valley Ware, an important local type of medieval (1066 to 154) pottery was made. It may also have been a kiln built in the mid 17th century by Francis Place, who experimented in the production of pottery in this area.

In the 19th century there were four other farms in the parish, a corn-mill on the Tees, and a productive salmon fishery. Until the 19th century there was no bridge between Low Dinsdale and Over Dinsdale. In 1839 the Reverend W.S. Temple, rector of Low Dinsdale, connected the two Dinsdales by a wooden bridge, built on stone piers, and in 1856 he replaced the timber work by an arch of brick. This subsequently collapsed, killing two men in its fall. It was replaced by a better bridge which still stands.

The church of St. John the Baptist is known to contain the only war memorial of the village, dedicated by a woman in memory of her son who died on the Somme in 1916 during the First World War. The memorial is also dedicated to her husband who died in 1923.

Reference number:D6856

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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.