Keys to the Past

Local History

Kelloe (County Durham)

The village of Kelloe lies south-east of Durham in countryside which still bares many reminders of the industrial era of coal mining and quarrying. However, the village has history going back as far as the Bronze Age. At nearby Garmondsway a group of flint tools of this date were found. This assemblage included two arrowheads; perhaps they had been left here by an early hunter. They are not the oldest remains known from Kelloe though. A Neolithic flint tool was found at Raisby Quarry - it is possible that it was used by one of the earliest farmers in this part of Durham. It was during the Neolithic period that forests were first being cleared to allow fields to be cultivated.

Despite this evidence for early occupation we know little else about Kelloe until the medieval period, although there would certainly have been people living here throughout the Roman and Anglo-Saxon period. It is certain that there was settlement here by the Anglo-Saxon period as the name of the village of Kelloe comes from the Old English words celf-hlaw meaning 'calf hill'. The nearby village of Garmondsway was also of Anglo-Saxon date. In the early 11th century the Anglo-Saxon king Cnut left this village to walk barefoot to the shrine of St. Cuthbert.

In 1183 Garmondsway was given to a leper hospital in Sherburn to provide it with food and an income. The earthwork remains of part of this village can still be seen. A group of rectangular enclosures are visible. These contain the buried remains of medieval houses. Medieval occupation is also known in Kelloe itself. A water mill was recorded in Kelloe in 1343. However, its precise location is not known. The parish church of St. Helen's was built in the late 11th or 12th century. It has a nave, chancel and tower. A small chantry stands at the northeast end of nave. This was built in 1347. A 12th century stone cross was found built into the church wall. This cross depicts St. Helena seeing a vision of the Holy Cross, as well as showing other versions of the saint and an unknown companion. She is also seen threatening Judas Iscariot with a sword and ordering him to dig with a spade and discover the cross.

One of the Bishops of Durham, Richard De Kellaw (1311) is known to have originated from Kelloe. He was much troubled by Scottish invasions which were fought off by the forces of the bishopric under the leadership of the bishop's brother Patrick. Another less well-known resident of Kelloe was John Lively the seventeenth century vicar of Kelloe who was noted for the fact that he had no male heir.
A poem was written about him:

"Here lies John Lively, Vicar of Kelloe
who had seven daughters but never a fellow"

The best known person to come from Kelloe is Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the famous writer and poet. She was born at nearby Coxhoe Hall in 1806. She was baptized in Kelloe Church, an event commemorated by a monument erected by public subscription in 1897. Another monument is to a terrible mining disaster at Trimdon Grange pit in 1822, when 74 miners were killed.

There are also a number of memorials around the village that commemorate the efforts of inhabitants of Kelloe in the First World War and WW2. St. Helen's Church contains a large oak plaque carved in 14th century Gothic style and listing the names of 131 men of Kelloe who served in the Great War, 56 of whom died. A processional cross in the church is also dedicated as a memorial to a soldier who fell in WW2. The village once had a Working Men's Institute which housed a 9ft tall ornately carved plaque dedicated to members who served in WW1 - this is now located in the village Methodist Church on the main street.

Reference number:D6844
Event(s):The identification of Historic Landscapes in Durham Project; Chris Blandford Associates

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.