Keys to the Past

Local History

Sadberge (County Durham)

The village of Sadberge stands between Darlington and Stockton on the top of the small hill which gives the village its name - Sadberge = Old Norse for flat-topped hill. Although not impressive today it was once the capital, or 'Wapentake', of the Viking settled area north of the Tees known as the Earldom of Sadberge which stretched from Hartlepool to Teesdale. Wapentakes were found in those parts of England settled by the Danes and continued to be important administrative centres in medieval times. The word wapentake literally means `Weapon Taking' and refers to the way in which land was held in return for military service to a chief.

The Vikings, however, were not the first people to settle here. At least two Iron Age settlements have been discovered. Traces of a round house surrounded by small fields were discovered by geophysical survey at Middleton Road. Similar techniques were used to find another Iron Age settlement close to the the A66.

In the Roman period 'Cades Road', the main route from Great Stainton to the fort at Chester-le-Street probably ran through this area, although no actual remains of the road have yet been discovered. There is more certain evidence of Roman occupation in the area though - a fragment of a Roman altar was found in the gardens of the Rectory.

As we have seen Sadberge was an important centre in the early medieval period. It once had an Anglo-Saxon church, though it was demolished and rebuilt in the 1820s.

Hugh Pudsey, Prince Bishop of Durham (1153-1195) was the man largely responsible for the decline in importance of the Sadberge district. He added the `earldom' to Durham in 1189 and from then on Sadberge was ruled by Durham's Prince Bishops. Despite its fall in status, Sadberge retained a degree of independence and continued to be administered as an almost separate county until 1576. Even as late as the nineteenth century there were still occasionally references to `the Counties of Durham and Sadberge'. In 1836 the revenues of the Bishopric of Durham including Sadberge passed to the Crown. A plaque attached to a large ice age stone on the village green reminds us how important Sadberge once was.

During the First World War and WW2 many of the inhabitants of Sadberge served their country and many of them also died. Many memorials can be found in the village either as plaques or rolls of honour dedicated to those of the area who served and fell in the World Wars; most of them were once located within religious buildings including St. Andrew's Church and the Wesleyan Methodist chapel but not all of them have survived to the present day. From 1921 there was also a memorial village hall at the western end of the village that had formerly been a guard room at the military camp at Ripon, but this has also now gone.

Reference number:D6872

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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.