Stanley (County Durham)
Stanley is an industrial town lying on a hilltop between Chester-le-Street and Consett. Much of the surrounding landscape was changed by coal mining, however, the mines are now all shut and the old spoilheaps have been landscaped and grassed over.
Prehistoric remains have been discovered in this area. A Neolithic axe was found in 1850 at Stanley Farm. This stone tool may have been used by the earliest farmers to clear trees and make their small, simple fields. Although we have this tool, there is no other archaeological evidence for these early settlers. We know little about the kind of settlements in which they lived. It is thought that they probably dwelled in simple wooden roundhouses. This kind of settlement continued to be used throughout prehistory. By the Iron Age the small clusters of these houses would have been surrounded by a simple enclosure. Aerial photographs show the cropmarks of just such a settlement at Low Stanley. Roman activity is represented to a lesser degree with only a single coin being found at Lady Smith Terrace.
Stanley was first mentioned in 1211 as 'Stanlegh' and is derived from Old English, 'Staenig-leah', meaning stoney clearing. It was probably an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The probable manor house of Stanley Hall was first mentioned in 1394 and was demolished in the 1930s. In 1834 it was described as standing south of Tanfield on a wild hill top. The site is now beneath a modern housing estate. There is a tradition of a chapel having stood near what is now an old quarry. It may have been associated with Stanley Hall but there are no remains to be seen at this site.
Stanley really owed its growth to coalmining. The inhabitants relied on the six collieries within the town itself and another forty within a two mile radius for employment. The worst coal mining disaster in British coal mining occurred in Stanley when over 160 men and boys were killed following an explosion at the West Stanley Colliery in Feburary 1909.
Today the parish includes a number of other settlements and a variety of memorials can be found throughout the area that commemorate the people of the area who fought and died in service of their country during the First World War and later conflicts. A cenotaph can be found in the park at Annfield Plain whilst two obelisks can be found elsewhere in the village on Loud Terrace and The Avenue at Greencroft. Many of the local churches of Harelaw, South Moor, Tanfield and Stanley 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.
Freestanding memorials can sometimes be found in the churchyards, including a Calvary at St. George's Church in South Moor and a cross at St. Andrew's Church in Stanley. Another common type of war memorial is the building of an institute or other meeting place; one such memorial can be found in the parish at Tanfield Lea.
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