Keys to the Past

Local History

Witton-le-Wear (County Durham)

Witton-le-Wear © DCC 2007
Witton-le-Wear © DCC 2007

Witton-le-Wear stands on the edge of the North Pennines to the south-west of Crook. As its name suggests it lies on the River Wear, about four miles upstream from Bishop Auckland.

Unusually for this area little is known about the village until the late Anglo-Saxon period. It is clear that some kind of settlement existed here by the mid-11th century, when it is mentioned in the History of Saint Cuthbert. Its name was recorded as Wudetun, the Old English for 'farm by the wood'. In the Norman period 'le wear' was added to the name to distinguish it from other Wittons in the area, such as Witton Gilbert.

In the twelfth century the manor of Witton was owned by the Bishop of Durham. The Lords of the Manor lived at {Witton Castle D13785} which was first built in the 13th century. It was partly dismantled in 1689 and then damaged by fire in 1796. After thus, much rebuilding took place. The castle was not the only important structure in medieval Witton-le-Wear. {Witton Tower D1763} stands in the village itself and includes a medieval tower house and a chapel. It was probably built as early as the 12th century. This makes it roughly contemporary with the nearby church of Saint Phillip and Saint James. However, this church has been subsequently heavily altered, and most of the present building dates to the mid-16th century or later.

In the post-medieval period the area became increasingly a centre for coal mining and several collieries were worked. There was also a tileworks making bricks and sanitary pipes from clay found during coal mining.

Reference number:D6906

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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.