Keys to the Past

Local History

Stamfordham (Northumberland)

Stamfordham village. Photo Northumberland County Council, 1985.
Stamfordham village. Photo Northumberland County Council, 1985.

Stamfordham parish lies in south Northumberland. It has a range of archaeological landscapes, from Hadrian's Wall to post-medieval country houses and parkland.

A cup marked stone from a barrow on Pike Hill is the oldest manmade object in the parish. It dates to the Neolithic and was reused in the Bronze Age. A major Neolithic site, if correctly identified, is a long mound recorded in the 19th century on Harlow Hill, but now lost to quarrying.

Several Bronze Age discoveries have been made including pieces of metalwork, such as a spearhead hoard found near Cheeseburn Grange and a unique gold ring, possibly of Irish influence. Some of the burial places of the people who lived here at this time have also been found at Pike Hill and near Dalton but where they lived is unknown.

The remains of Hadrian's Wall run across the south of the parish. It was built by the Romans in AD122 and, although the Wall itself runs unseen below the modern road, the ditch and vallum can be seen as earthworks. Other structures in this section of the frontier include the remains of Milecastle 16, several turrets and a Roman milestone. None of the small farmsteads commonly found over much of the county have been found in Stamfordham.

A wide early medieval presence is hinted at in the Stamfordham area. There are many hamlets and villages with the place-name elements ' ing and 'ham and the place-name element 'wick is also thought to be early. The only building that harks back to that time is the Church of St Mary which stands on the site of an eighth century church. An arch from this early building is incorporated into the medieval church and a similarly dated cross shaft fragment is now in Durham Cathedral Library.

In medieval times the settlement pattern was one of scattered hamlets and villages and Stamfordham has a large number of shrunken and deserted medieval villages, such as Harlow Hill, Heugh, Dalton and Eachwick. Most existed from the 12th and 13th centuries but the reasons for their decline could be various; from plague, enforced removal for the creation of landscape parks at North Dissington, or because they became unviable in the 17th and 18th centuries when the process of agricultural improvement led to a reorganisation of the land. A medieval document records a vicar's tower at Stamfordham but nothing remains of it in the present Old Vicarage.

The effects of Border reivers must have touched this part of Northumberland, as the oldest part of Widdrington House is a bastle. In the more peaceful years of the 18th and 19th centuries it was turned into a less defensive house.

The parish has also been at the forefront of agricultural changes, with estates such as Cheeseburn Grange developing specialised buildings like pigsties and dovecotes and stables. Many small stone quarries and limekilns developed across the parish at this time, for example at Milking Hill, Hawkwell and at Stobb Hill Farm.

Modern remains centre about the defence of the World War II Ouston airfield. This was achieved through the use of pillboxes around the perimeter of the airfield and those that survive form one of the most complete defensive schemes around an airfield in the county.

Reference number:N13770

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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.