Keys to the Past

Local History

Spennymoor (County Durham)

The town of Spennymoor is a sprawl of 19th century houses and modern tower blocks lying to the south-east of Bishop Auckland. It grew up in the early 19th century to supply accommodation and services to the many surrounding coal mines in the East Durham coalfield.

Despite the plethora of 19th century industrial and domestic sites, there are hints of earlier settlement in the area. Perhaps the oldest discovery from Spennymoor is a simple late Neolithic or early Bronze Age flint tool found at Old Park Lodge. It may have been used by one of the earliest farmers in County Durham.

We know little about Spennymoor until the medieval period. Old Park Manor was a medieval manor house. We know from historic records that in 1472 the manor house included a hall, a kitchen, three chambers, a stable and other buildings. The house was extended in the Gothic style in the mid 18th century. From 1840 it was occupied by the manager of Whitworth Colliery. It was demolished in 1901 due to its ruined condition.

The village of Whitworth was first recorded in 1183. By the 15th century the manor was owned by the Earls of Westmoreland until it was taken by the crown after the Northern Rebellion of 1569. The Shaftoe family bought it in 1652. In 1797 Robert Shaftoe (the 'Bonnie Bobby Shaftoe' of the song) left the estate to his son, John, who rebuilt the hall in about 1820. The main house was destroyed by fire in 1876 and in 1891 the surviving parts were included in the new house. The house is now run as a hotel and restaurant.

During the First World War, and indeed in later conflicts, many inhabitants of Spennymoor and settlements from the wider parish either volunteered or were conscripted into the service of their country. A wide variety of war memorials serve as a testament to those men and women of the parish and can be found in many locations. Many of the local churches contain war memorials in the form of Rolls of Honour, books of remembrance and plaques dedicated to individuals from local families who served and even laid down their lives. Working Men's Clubs are also a common location for memorials commemorating the memberships of institutions who went to war from an industrial working background. In addition to these smaller memorials, freestanding public memorials of the parish include: Spennymoor cenotaph, a statue in Tudhoe cemetery, crosses at Byers Green and Kirk Merrington and a memorial stone column in Tudhoe Village.

With regard to military installations that contributed to the war effort, an aircraft landing ground was established in Spennymoor that was used by 36 squadron during WW1, and a rifle range was located near North Close, Kirk Merrington that shows up on maps from the early 20th century - likely used as a training site throughout WW1 and even up to WW2.

Reference number:D6887
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.