Keys to the Past

Local History

Shincliffe (County Durham)

Shincliffe © DCC 2007
Shincliffe © DCC 2007

Shincliffe © DCC 2007
Shincliffe © DCC 2007

Shincliffe © DCC 2007
Shincliffe © DCC 2007

Shincliffe © DCC 2007
Shincliffe © DCC 2007

Shincliffe © DCC 2007
Shincliffe © DCC 2007

Shincliffe is a village standing close to the River Wear just to the south of Durham.

The village name comes from the Old English word 'Scinna', meaning ghost or demon and seems to mean haunted cliff. Shincliffe was first recorded in AD 1085 as 'Scinneclif', when Bishop Carileph gave the area to the Prior and Convent of Durham.

However, there is evidence for occupation in the area from long before the medieval period. The earliest object to be found is a simple flint knife discovered near Manor Farm. It probably dates to the Bronze Age. We know little else about Shincliffe in prehistory.

There is some evidence for a Roman presence in the vicinity of Shincliffe. The course of a Roman road between the Tees and the Tyne (suggested in the 18th century by 'John Cade Edq. of Durham'), may have run close by, and a Roman villa may have stood nearby at Old Durham.

Shincliffe seems to have always been an important area in relation to river crossings. There have been bridges at this site since the end of the 12th century. 'The making of a bridge' is mentioned in 1368, but by 1385 it was said to be in a ruined state. Bishop Skirlaw built a new bridge in 1405. This was destroyed and rebuilt between 1537 and 1540. This bridge was washed away in 1753 and replaced by another which survived until 1824, when the present bridge was built.

One of the oldest standing buildings in the area is Shincliffe Mill which dates from 1303. Corn was ground here until 1900. A number of 18th century buildings also remain: Shincliffe Hall, Old House, The Rectory, The Manor House and a number of cottages. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Bank Top colliery was opened in 1839 together with two railway stations; one of which was County Durham's first.

Shincliffe (Village) Station was the passenger terminus of the Durham & Sunderland railway, which opened on 28th July 1839, and though not within the City boundary, provided Durham with its first rail access. The line itself, after leaving the station and crossing the Wear, continued on to Houghall, and to small pits beyond until the 1850s. The station closed on 24th July 1893 with the opening of a new NER branch line from Sherburn House to its terminus at Elvet Station, nearer the City centre. Following its use as a Council depot for a number of years, the old station was sympathetically incorporated into a modern housing development, thus ensuring its preservation. Whilst its brick arches may appear to be the remnant of a viaduct, their purpose was to support the station platforms alongside the embankment, which carried the track over the bridges across the village road and the Wear.

The contributions of the people of Shincliffe to the war effort during the First World War and later conflicts are reflected in the various memorials contained within St. Mary's Church. An ornate WW1 reredos screen was once located behind the altar of the church until a fire in 1980 prompted it's relocation to a wall-mounted position; a number of plaques commemorate men who were killed in 1916 in the battle for the Butte de Warlencourt, and a stained glass window is dedicated to the memory of those who served in WW2.

Reference number:D6882
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.