Keys to the Past

Local History

Ponteland (Northumberland)

The Vicar's Pele at Ponteland. Photo by Peter Ryder.
The Vicar's Pele at Ponteland. Photo by Peter Ryder.

Today, the parish of Ponteland is dominated by the busy village of Ponteland and the modern housing estate of Darras Hall, both filled with through traffic commuting to Tyneside and the airport. The surrounding landscape is 18th century in character, with a scatter of country houses and their surrounding parkland. But beneath this tame landscape are the remains of many former settlements and villages, and nestling amongst the modern buildings in Ponteland are many fine medieval and later buildings.

If the area around Ponteland was ever occupied by people in the earliest of prehistoric times, no evidence of it survives to the present day. However, two axes of Neolithic date were found in the area in the early 20th century, but insufficient information exists about their discovery to know whether they might indicate any settlement of that date. Somewhat later in date, a beaker has also been found. Such pottery vessels were normally placed inside Bronze Age burials, but again there is insufficient information about this discovery to prove there was any occupation here in the Bronze Age.

There are however, a large number of possible prehistoric or Roman period sites, only visible from aerial photographs. For the most part they are enclosures that may have once surrounded a farmstead or a larger village. They sit within a landscape which has since been used for agricultural purposes and have therefore been ploughed out making them invisible at ground level. But aerial photography tells a different story. Examples of such enclosures exist at Prestwick Whins, Kirkley West Farm and another at Southeast Farm East.

This pattern of settlement continued into medieval times and Ponteland boasts a large number of shrunken or deserted medieval villages. The majority existed from the 13th century, although South Dissington allegedly existed from before 1085 when it was given to Tynemouth Priory. Below the modern houses of Darras Hall lies the remains of the medieval village of Callerton Darreynes which was destroyed by the Scots in the 14th century and never rebuilt. However, the majority of the medieval villages became unviable when the process of agricultural improvement in the 17th and 18th centuries led to reorganisation of the land. Many villages were replaced by a smaller number of farms, for example Eland Hall, Little Callerton and Berwick Hill. In many cases, villages were uprooted to make way for the parklands which were designed to provide an attractive landscape around the newly built country houses built for wealthy landowners at Kirkley, South Dissington and North Dissington.

Ponteland village still has a number of attractive medieval buildings. The best known is probably the Blackbird Inn which once formed part of a 13th or 14th century fortified house. It was destroyed in a Scottish raid in 1388 and went through a process of rebuilding in the 17th century. In 1935 it was rebuilt once more to become an inn. Just around the corner is the Vicar's Pele which is 16th century in appearance and recently conserved by the local community. The Church of St Mary in Ponteland was built between the 12th and 15th centuries, but was heavily restored in the early 19th century, a fate which befell many medieval churches in the north. Many other medieval buildings have been completely lost. Eland Hall was a 13th century manor house which may have stood somewhere near Eland Hall Farm where there are some earthworks. Kirkley Tower existed in 1415, but all traces of it are lost and its location is unknown. Milbourne Chapel existed in 1202 and was last mentioned in documentary references in 1575; it is also now lost.

It is to the 18th and 19th centuries that we look to for archaeological evidence of small-scale industrialisation. A number of tile works and clay mills existed in the area, namely Berwickhill Tile Works, the 19th century Clay Mill tile works, Ponteland tile works and Kirkley Tilery. Bell pits from former coal working areas can be found to the east of Ponteland. Ponteland Corn Mill was constructed in the mid 19th century and quarries on Berwick Hill are late 19th or early 20th century in date.

Of country houses, Prestwick Hall was constructed in 1815 by John Dobson and Dissington Hall in 1794 by William Newton for Edward Collingwood. Eland Hall was built in the early 18th century, but there are hints that it may contain the remains of an earlier building. Milbourne Hall, built in 1807-9 and its grounds, are worthy of special mention. The Hall was built of Belsay stone, and designed by an Edinburgh architect, but the exterior fa├žade gives no hint as to the extraordinary interior where almost every room is oval.

Many of the buildings in the village of Ponteland are considered to be sufficiently fine to be designated as listed buildings. The Old Rectory on the corner of North Road and Main Street is an early 18th century brick house and was once the property of Merton College in Oxford who were the lay rectors of Ponteland. Numbers 12 and 14 Main Street are a more humble farmhouse and cottage dating to the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Seven Stars Public House is early 19th century in date, as are 21 and 25 Main Street, built as houses, but now shops.

One of the most recent archaeological monuments in the area is the World War II pillbox east of Smailburn, built to assist with the defence of the country against the Germans.

Reference number:N13756

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Disclaimer -

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.