Keys to the Past

Local History

Startforth (County Durham)

Startforth lies just to the south of Barnard Castle; the two are joined by a bridge over the River Tees.

We know little about the early prehistory of Startforth and the surrounding area, and no remains have survived. However, it is clear that the first occupants of Durham were simple bands of hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic period (10 000 to 4000BC). The techniques of farming would have become known during the Neolithic period. By the Iron Age the area would probably have been a network of small fields, with small farmsteads of wooden roundhouses surrounded by simple palisades or enclosures.

The Romans arrived in County Durham in the 1st century AD. The Roman road from the fort at Bowes (Lavatrae) to Binchester (Vinovia) crosses the River Tees at Startforth. There could have been a bridge over the river, although no remains of this have survived.

Certainly by the Anglo-Saxon period there was no bridge, and the river was probably crossed by a ford. Indeed the name of the village comes from the Old English for 'street ford'. Stones, which were probably part of the Roman road, have been seen on the site of the Barnard Castle Gas Works on the north bank of the river. A sixteenth century bridge now remains in use to this day.

The village is now divided into three zones; High Startforth, Low Startforth, and Bridge End. A number of 19th century buildings are to be found: The Footbridge/ Holy Trinity,etc. Holy Trinity church was built in 1863 and replaced an earlier church which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. A stone cross of this date was found beneath the wooden floor of Startforth church in 1862, it may have been of Anglo-Saxon date.

During the First World War a military camp was established within Deerbolt Park. The site is known as Deerbolt Camp. It was used prior to and throghout the war as a training site and store and might well be associated with a rifle range just to the north along Deepdale Beck (now in the parish of Lartington). During the Second World War it was predominantly a training installation and today the area is dominated by the buildings and grounds of a Young Offenders Institute.

Reference number:D6892
Event(s):Heart of Teesdale Project Heritage Audit; North of England Civic Trust

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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.