Keys to the Past

Local History

Stanhope (County Durham)

Stanhope was first recorded in 1183 as 'Stanhopa' and is derived from the Old English 'Staen-hop' meaning stoney valley. The wider parish of Stanhope extends to the west up Weardale as far as the Cumbrian border at Nenthead, and to the east as far as Frosterly.

Prehistoric activity is well attested for in this area. A number of Mesolithic flints have been found, as have Neolithic stone axes. A group of Bronze Age burials are situated on Crawley Edge whilst at Heathery Burn a Bronze Age hoard was discovered. The site of a possible Iron Age settlement stands on Brian's Folds. Other prehistoric remains such as field systems can still be seen on the hills that consist of areas of earthen or stone built banks and enclosures.

The 12th century Norman church of St. Thomas stands in the market place. In front of the building is a fossilised tree which was found on the nearby moors and dates to the carboniferous age.

Stanhope Hall has probable Medieval origins whilst examples of 17th century architecture are found at Stone Houses, the rectory (until 1697) and Unthank Hall. Stanhope Castle is of 18th century date.

A great many memorial sites can be found throughout the wider parish that commemorate the efforts of the inhabitants of Weardale in the First World War and in later conflicts. Many of the local churches contain war memorials in the form of Rolls of Honour, books of remembrance and plaques dedicated to individuals from the local area who fought and died in the conflict, whilst more public areas are often adorned with freestanding traditional memorials. Examples of these can be seen in the statue of a WW1 DLI soldier at St. John's Chapel and on memorial crosses at Eastgate, Rookhope, Stanhope and Cowshill. The cross at Cowshill is particularly interesting in that it has been referred to as the highest, most remote and furthest inland in County Durham.

Institute buildings are a common location for memorial plaques recording the efforts of a particular club's membership in war. Examples of these can be found in Westgate, Wearhead and Frosterley. Many of these buildings are now used as village halls and continue to be important meeting places to the present day. There is documentary evidence that for a short time after WW1 a German gun was positioned outside Stanhope Police Station as a war trophy, but this type of memorial was not kindly accepted by ex-servicemen who hauled the gun to the stone bridge further up the river and hauled it over the side!

In relation to military installations of the parish it is documented that WW1 POW camps were established at {Rose Hill D7204} near Eastgate and at Shittlehope, whilst two rifle ranges can be found on maps of the early 20th century above Stanhope extending either side of Crawley Burn.

Reference number:D6861
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.