Keys to the Past

Local History

Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh (Northumberland)

View across the parish. Photo by Northumberland County Council, 2003.
View across the parish. Photo by Northumberland County Council, 2003.

Between roughly 4000 and 6000 years ago, settled farming lifestyles took over from nomadic hunting lifestyles. Archaeologists call this the Neolithic period. Archaeologists have not found the remains of their farms or houses, but they know that people were living in, or travelling through, Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh at this time. Archaeologists think a cup marked standing stone and cup marked rock outcrop were made by Neolithic people as religious symbols, or perhaps to act as route markers.

Between 3000 and 4000 years ago, society went through a number of gradual changes. Archaeologists call this period the Bronze Age because copper alloy tools and weapons were first developed. There was also a change from the communal burials of the past to individual burials. Many people were buried with gifts for an afterlife, perhaps as a way of showing how rich or powerful they were. A stone cairn was often built over burials. Two barrows and a cairn at Kirkhaugh were found and excavated in the 1930s. A gold earring or hair decoration was found with one of the burials. You can see the earring/hair decoration and find out more about it on the website of the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle upon Tyne: http://museums.ncl.ac.uk/archive/old_fotm/old_fotmap98/ .

Two standing stones near Highshield and Butter Well were probably erected between 3000 and 6000 years ago, in the Bronze Age or the Neolithic period. Archaeologists think the stones had religious significance.

Some structures in the landscape are very difficult to date. There are nine curricks on hilltops in Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh including David's Cobs and Green Hill. These may have been built at any time since people have lived in the area we now call Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh.

Archaeologists know little about the Iron Age in Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh. The earliest settlement in the parish may be from this time or from the Roman period. After the Roman invasion of AD43, Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh was an important frontier region. The fort of Epiacum, or Whitley Castle, was established and archaeological excavations here found a bathhouse and several altars. The fort lay on a Roman road known as the Maiden Way and the remains of a bridge abutment can still be seen where this road crossed the River South Tyne. On Heaplow Hill, near Whitley Castle, is the possible site of a Roman signal station.

After the Roman occupation ended in AD410 immigrants from Europe gradually settled in parts of northern England. The Anglo-Saxons who settled in Northumberland lived in settlements that grew up around farms. Because an Anglo-Saxon stone cross stands in Kirkhaugh churchyard, archaeologists think that a village existed at Kirkhaugh at this time. Other medieval villages in Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh may have a similarly long history, but have not yet been investigated.

Evidence for medieval life in Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh after the Norman invasion of 1066 can be found all over the parish. Medieval documents can be compared with standing remains, such as earthworks, of the former crofts, tofts and streets. The medieval villages of Kirkhaugh and Knaresdale both show traces of partial abandonment and are known as shrunken medieval villages. Williamstone is an example of a medieval manor that never grew into a village.

The 14th century Church of St Jude and the 13th century Church of Holy Paraclete were both demolished in the 19th century. Traces of these earlier churches do survive in the form of gravestones around St Jude's and a stained glass window at Holy Paraclete.

Medieval farmers and herders often moved from their winter homes in low lying areas of the parish to summer homes, or shielings, in the hillier areas. This allowed their animals to graze on upland vegetation while the grass in the valleys grew long enough to be harvested for winter fodder. Archaeologists call this type of lifestyle transhumance. The remains of shielings can be seen at Mardy's Cleugh and Parker's Shield. The remains of a more permanent medieval home, known as a longhouse, is incorporated into a later building at White Leas.

Border raiding was a constant threat in Northumberland in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some houses, called bastles, were designed to protect the inhabitants and their possessions, with thick walls, a barn on the ground floor and living space above. Some later houses were built in this style even though raids were less of a threat. There are many examples in the parish, including Holymire, Dyke House, Greenhaugh and Low Row.

Limestone has probably been quarried and burned in Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh throughout history, but most of the lime kilns that can be seen today were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. A few examples include: Eals Bridge, `Barhaugh B', `Barhaugh C', Williamstone, Knarsdale Common and Far House.

In the 18th century, land was enclosed and landowners became richer as agriculture became more productive. Fashionable houses and landscape parks, such as Barhaugh Park, were built with the profits. Roads were improved with new bridges at Burnstones, Eals and Knar Burn and communications also improved with the coming of the railway to Knaresdale with Kirkhaugh in 1852. The viaducts at Gilderdale and Burnstones were built in this year. Lead and copper were both mined in the area. Lead miners who lived too far to walk to work from their homes every day slept in a mine shop converted from a bothy in the 19th century. The remains of Bold Venture copper mine can still be seen today. The 19th century collieries at Barhaugh Burn and Burnhouse didn't close until the 20th century.

In the 19th century, nonconformism grew in popularity. Wesleyan chapels were built in the 1870s at Kirkhaugh and Eals village and at Slaggyford, the 1862 chapel was replaced forty years later by a larger Methodist church.

Reference number:N13390

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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.