Infrequently Asked Questions

From time to time people contacted the Blanchland and Hunstanworth history websites to contribute their own information or photographs, or simply to say they have happy memories of the area and enjoyed the website. Here are just a few of the emails people sent; where appropriate I've included my responses and added links that point to relevant web pages or sites.

The Race family of Jeffrey's Rake

My 5X Great-Grandfather William Race married Hannah Cousin at Alston on May 13 1784. They both died at Jeffrey's Rake, William being buried on October 10 1808 and Hannah on September 11 1813, both at Hunstanworth. Their son James, who had been born at Galligill, Alston in 1789, married Mary Brown at Hunstanworth on July 17 1814. The family (who were) leadminers moved down to the coalfield in the 1830s. David Race, 29 March 2011

Lead miners of the early 18th Century

Tony Murray contacted the website from Australia and very kindly sent a list of Hunstanworth lead miners' names from 1715 - 1719 he thought may be useful for people researching their ancestors in the area. Detailed information as early as this are very rare for the area, so the list may prove invaluable to someone who has ground to a halt in their research. You can see a pdf of the list here. Elfie Waren, 1 March 2011

On the way to Blanchland

Hello - I enjoyed reading your article on the abbey. I live near Crook and just outside of the town at High Woodifield, there was tithebarn and chapel which had been in existence since before the 12th century when the Amundeville family of Witton gave the land and building to the Prior and Convent of Durham who in turn rented it to the monks of Blanchland. Until the begining of the 19th century there was a cross on the end of the gable and evidence that a belfry had once been part of the structure. The canons appear to have used it as a rest house. Roger Kelly, 7 February 2011

A Blanchland resident contacted the website with information from a Derwent Valley walk leaflet which indicates the Premonstratensian Canons in the village were probably linked with a rich network of settlements on key religious routes in the North East: "Beyond the embankments of the old railway line, towards the riverside fields lies the remains of one of the valley's hidden gems, Friarside Chapel. Located on private land, this is the remnant of an old plague hospital, located on the monk's pilgrim route between the Venerable Bede's monastery at Jarrow and the facilities at Blanchland, at the top of the Derwent Valley." You can see the article Roger refers to here.

The Sandersons and the Dixons

I wonder if you could help me with any information about the Sanderson or Dixon families who lived in Blanchland in 18th/19th C. I believe my great great grandmother, Jane Sanderson, is buried somewhere in Blanchland (she was over 100 when she died). Her daughter (also Jane Sanderson) married a William Dixon (possibly a baillif on the Crewe estate) on 9 Dec, 1875 at Hesketh. They had at least 12 children and moved to Barton Moss, Irlam at some point before the turn of the century. Angela Bell, 30 January 2011

In the Gallery section on the website there's a photo of Jane Sanderson's headstone in St Mary's Church in Blanchland. You can see the photo and a short account of her life here.

Riding the Bounds 1839

I have a copy of the Blanchland Manor Roll of 1839 which appears on the Blanchland History website and have often thought someone must still have one of the commemorative medals given out on that day, or at least a picture of one. My Great-great-great-grandfather Robert Bell of Cowbyer and some of his sons took part. Carol Knight, 25 November, 2010

An 1839 boundary token is held by Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn near Ashington. Thanks to a very kind local collector, Richard Cheesman, there is now a picture of one on the website - Riding the Bounds.

Boys Brigade memories

As a young Boys Brigade lad I spend many teen years camping on the farmland of the wonderful Jameson family in Hunstanworth. I forget the names of this lovely family - I only remember the old grandad was Ned. I ran the Brigade company until the 70's when I left the Brigade and moved abroad. However until then I often stayed in the Jamesons' barn after walking over from Hexham. I remember well marching with our bugle band from Hunstanworth to Blanchland for the Sunday service. Wonderful memories! John Scott, Malta, 30 October, 2010

Amanda Mikfeld got in touch from her home in Germany in response to John's letter, saying her Grandad, Ned Jameson, loved having the camps in his fields every summer and stayed in touch with many of the lads who visited.

A Makepeace family death

I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to see the Makepeace name mentioned in your web page on Hunstanworth's school days. I am researching the Makepeace family and would be most interested in more information on the death of Hannah Makepeace of Jeffrey's Rake at the age of 36 in 1828. Bill Makepeace, 17 September, 2010

A page on the Makepeace family has now been added to the website but sadly none of contributor Jeff Makepeace's information has solved the mystery of Hannah's death in 1828. If anyone can help Bill with information, get in touch through the web contact form.

Teacher for a year

My great grandmother Maude Gertrude White was a temporary teacher at Blanchland between 1900 and 1901. She came from Cheshire with her husband James and their six children. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has information or photos from that time. She went on to teach in Whitley chapel school. Jane Gunney, 12 September, 2010

Baptism records for Blanchland

Could you please tell me if there are any church records that give baptism details of people born in Blanchland? My ancestor Robert Archer was born there around 1798/99. Teresa Colbeck, 9 September, 2010

The Anglican christening, marriage and burial records for Blanchland from 1753 to 1995 are held in the Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn near Ashington. As she lives out of the area, Teresa has emailed the archive service to ask if they can help.

The Pears family of Commerce Hall

I am looking for information on the Pears family. The earliest Pears I can trace is Thomas Pears who was born about 1779, I think in Hunstanworth, but I have no confirmation of birth, but there were a lot of Pears' in the area at that time.

Thomas was a lead miner and left to go to Arkengarthdale lead mines about 1803 because there they started to pay miners weekly instead of twice yearly as a way of attracting them, and the link being the Easterby Hall company which held mining interests in both areas.

He married Elizabeth Chalder there in 1804 and started his family but when those mines went into decline, he left and returned to Hunstanworth (where he already had family ties?). The couple had their final child Margaret in 1821 and were living at Wagtail Farm and Thomas was working as a lead miner again.

His son William (1806 - 1857) lived in Edmundbyers and Stanhope as well as Wagtail.

William's son Thomas (1844 - 1927) went to live with his Uncle Thomas and cousin William Patrick Pears because his mother died when he was six. Andy Pears, 16 June 2010

William Patrick Pears grew to be an influential man in the area; he ran Commerce Hall, a shop on Jeffrey's Rake, with his four spinster daughters, and was a Primitive Methodist lay preacher and a school governor at Hunstanworth. He was instrumental in the establishment of Ramshaw Chapel. Three of his daughters were living at Ramshaw until 1963, when they were trapped in winter snowdrifts with tragic consequences.

The Jamesons of High House

The Jamesons
Just some of the Jamesons... Mary Agnes, Mary Annie, Alice, Mrs Jameson, Henry, Frances Jameson (left to right from inscription on the reverse of the photograph) - Debra Goldsmith
I'm trying to find further information/pictures about my Gt. Gt. Gt. Grandparents William (b.1811) and Mary Jameson (b.1810) who lived at High House, Hunstanworth and appear on the 1851-1871 census returns. William was a lead ore miner. They had around nine offspring. I'm directly connected to them via their son William Jameson (1842-1910) who I believe was a roadworker/asphalter and moved on to Darlington Corporation in his latter years. I understand 'the Jamesons' migrated down from Scotland over many years and Hunstanworth was a major settling ground for them before the years finally dispersed them. I wonder if you could shed any light on this and if you could identify any particular photographs relating to those mentioned earlier? Paul Griffiths, March 12 2010

Paul has been referred to Debra Goldsmith's Picasa web album as Debra has lots of old family pictures.

The Dent family of Ramshaw

I am looking for information on the children of John Dent born in 1830 and Jane Johnson, born 1826. I am particularly interested in Isabella Dent, born about 1869. My problem is that I can't find Isabella after the 1881 census. Both of her parents died before she turned three years old, I believe. In the 1881 census, she is 12 years old, and living with her older, married sister, Sarah Dent Gray, born in Ramshaw. That particular census shows Civil Parish: Bishopwearmouth, Municipal Borough of Sunderland, Municipal Ward of Pallion. I can't trace her past that time. I have ordered two marriage certificates already, both of which have turned out not to be her. Linda Godard, January 28 2010

There was an extensive family of Dents living in Ramshaw throughout the 1800s. If anyone looking in has information for Linda, please get in touch via the website.

The Olivers of Shildon

Joseph Wilson Askew I was very interested to find this site as it reminded me of the enjoyable times experienced as a child when I visited my grandparents' cottage at Shildon in the 1950s and 60s. My Grandfather was Watson Oliver and both my great grandfather and I believe great-great grandfather together with various members of the family are buried in St Mary's churchyard. The purpose of contacting you is to let you know that I inherited a picture of the members of the Rent Dinner circa 1890 taken in the grounds of St Mary's Church and wondered if you would like a copy for the webpage. It was lovely to see the photograph of Mr Askew (pictured right) in the Post Office - it brought back memories of purchasing my first fishing licence. Allan Shaw, September 3 2009

Allan has very kindly sent the Rent Dinner photograph of 1890 and you can see it by going to the Gallery and opening the People of the Past album.

The Taylors and Elliotts

I wonder if anyone has any information about my ancestors who lived and worked in the lead mines around Hunstanworth. They were Mary Ann Elliott born 1832, The Park, Hunstanworth and married to John Taylor (born Somerset 1831). They had 10 children, their eldest being William born 1854 and married to Frances. I have been researching the family history for some time and visited the village a few years ago. I live in France so it is difficult to look at original records. Gwynneth Heeley, August 9 2009

You've probably already got copies of the census material Gwynneth, but I think I do have some information for you if you haven't seen the Hunstanworth parish census for 1871. In 1871 there's a John Taylor (aged 39 so this would be the right one) living at Boltshope Park and he's a Lead Ore Miner - two of his sons are lead miners as well by then - William and John. John Senior is a widower by then, so it looks as if Mary Ann has passed away - but only fairly recently as the youngest child Isabella is only two years old. I couldn't find Mary Ann Elliott on the 1841 census as you would expect to, but there were a lot of mis-spellings in those days so it may just be a case of using different search terms. You can get all the census information on if you sign up to look at it. You can also get births, marriages and deaths on there, so it's well worth paying to access it for the information you need if you haven't already got it. And you can do all that from France! Another very useful site for birth, marriage and death records is FreeBMD - information on that one is free, though not yet complete.

If you go to Hunstanworth's School page...and then click on the picture of the school book on the left, it will take you to the teacher's diary for 1863, and there's a chance one or two of Mary Ann and John Taylor's children are mentioned in those pages. The log books themselves are in Durham County Record Office.

Bertie Short of Ramshaw

Do you know anything about Bertie, a gardener, who lived in Ramshaw? He had a house full of clocks. I understand he has now died, and that he latterly had a greenhouse of plants which died because he didn't have the coal to keep it warm. Do you know what kind of plants he kept in the greenhouse? And/or is there anyone I could chat to about him? I used to stay in the cottage opposite when I was a student in Newcastle. I'm a writer and a poet. Chrissie Gittins August 2 2009

I think you might be referring to a man called Bertie Short, but I only know this because a few people have mentioned him to me (very fondly!). His brother was Joe Short and his sister was called Jennie Short - I think they're all in the school photos on the Hunstanworth website. Jennie is still alive (she was 100 this year) and lives up in the Scottish borders. Back in the 1930s she caused a bit of excitement in Hunstanworth by marrying the vicar - she was 25 at the time and he was 72. They moved off to Branxton and settled down to married life and had a family. Chrissie has been put in touch with a local couple who knew Bertie.

Postcard of Newbiggin Hall

Newbiggin Hall

Could you please tell me what happened to Newbiggin Hall, Nevendon, Blanchland? As as child I remember going to stay there when it was a hotel. Your photograph of Newbiggin Hall under the heading of "Places" brought back many memories. Gill Drysdale, July 26 2009

Newbiggin Hall is still there, as beautiful as ever. It is now owned by a member of the Arabian royal family who comes to stay a couple of times a year for the grouse shooting. He flies in via helicopter! I think it has had a chequered history; people have told me it was a First World War sanatorium, and it even had a spell as a turkey farm!

The Sanders family of Hunstanworth

My name is Paul Sanders and I am currently researching my family history. So far between the dates 1797 - 1880 all my ancestors lived and worked in Hunstanworth. The same places are commonly mentioned on the BMD certificates: Ellis Hill, Smithy Cleugh, Nookton and Jeffreys Rake although not sure what these places refer to (homesteads, mines etc). Also do these places still exist? Paul Sanders, June 17 2009

I have seen the Sanders surname in various records - good to hear from a descendant! Ellis Hill: This is a ruin on a hill close to another ruined cottage, Sled Meadows. Smithy Cleugh: Again, a ruin - in fact I'm not even sure there is a building any more for that one! Nookton: Still a working farm. Jeffreys Rake: This was an area where lots of lead miners lived - the hillside (rake) of a valley which led down to the hamlet of Ramshaw.

If you click on this link to a Geograph web page. you'll see a map of the area you're interested in. If you then click on the map on the page the OS Map will appear - pan easterly and you will see Jeffries Rake (not sure which spelling is correct).

The Wilkinson family

I am a descendent of Joseph Wilkinson who was a Wesleyan Preacher/Joiner living in Hunstanworth in 1841. He was married to Elizabeth, and my Great-great grandad was his son Robert. I'm researching family history. Could you tell me where I can find info on his birth, life - anything at all! Margaret, March 26 2009

Without checking the records properly, I think you may be descended from the same Wilkinsons as Cecil Davison, whose story appears on the Hunstanworth History website here. The Wilkinsons (and I think your Joseph and Elizabeth might have been the parents of this family) had about 12 children and lived in row of homes called Hard Struggle Cottages (great name!) near Ramshaw, which were called that apparently because there were several attempts to build them but they never got finished.

The porch of Teulon's St James' Church

Hunstanworth's architect Samuel Sanders Teulon

I came across your site as I have always been fascinated by Hunstanworth's buildings - having passed through on and off for the last thirty years or so.

Do you have any idea of who was responsible for building the existing hamlet? It is very distinctive and looks very 'un-English' in its architecture with the steep roofs and decorative tiles. I would be very interested if you have any information on this. Alistair MacDonald-Smith, February 24 2009

The village as you see it today was built in 1863 by the estate owner, the Rev Daniel Capper of Gloucestershire. He employed London architect Samuel Sanders Teulon to do the whole thing; Teulon borrowed heavily on the European Gothic style, and has been described as one of the Victorian 'rogue' architects. He designed lots of churches, mainly in the south, and worked on estate cottages and vicarages for influential people like the Duke of Gloucester. I guess that's why it looks so out of place in our rugged North Pennines landscape. Teulon was of Huguenot descent, and his brother was also an architect. You can find a list of his projects on Wikipedia, and some very nice pictures of all Teulon's Hunstanworth buildings at Images of England - just type "Hunstanworth" in the search box.

I dream of discovering a series of correspondence between Daniel Capper and SS Teulon discussing the minutiae of the Hunstanworth project - but I don't think it's going to happen! I contacted architecture lecturer Nigel Jones who did a paper years ago on the village and he had not turned anything up like that. If you go to Estate Sale of 1865 you'll see that just two years after the new village was complete it was put on the market, so whether Daniel Capper was 'doing it up' just to sell it on isn't clear.

The Clennells of Hunstanworth

I am doing my family history and have found that Thomas Clennell married Elizabeth Longridge at Hunstonworth church in 1792. They were my Great- great-great grandparents. They had 11 children - some of the children married in the same church. Two of the sons, Michael and Alexander, lived in Ferny Gill, Edmundbyers in the 1841 Census. I wondered if you had any information? Marjorie, January 30 2009

There seem to have been members of the Clennell family around Hunstanworth for most of the 1800s. They seemed to have left the area by the end of the 19th Century. A widow, Mary Clennell is listed in the 1881 and 1891 censuses as living at Boltshope Park, which was a series of 10 lead miners' cottages strung out along the road towards Rookhope.

I did a quick search on Google using Clennell and Hunstanworth and some info came up on the Durham Mining Museum website. Thomas Clennell, a lead ore miner aged 39 died in a mine accident at Hunstanworth in 1881 (the same year as the census). He probably was related to Mary Clennell, but whether he was her husband I don't know.

Octavius Vipond and family

My paternal grandmother I believe was born on Cross Hill Farm in about 1880, name of Ursula Weir. She married John Joseph Vipond but I haven't found out yet if it was in Hunstanworth. There was quite a big family of the Weir's. Are the parish records available to look at do you know?

My Grandfather and Grandmother lived at Eddis Bridge, near Muggleswick about 1917 and then moved to Healeyfield, Castleside. The Viponds lived at Cowbyres, Blanchland. There were originally eight in the family, the eighth being called Octavius. There was a Thomas as well who farmed at Cowbyres till the 1930s I think. Marion, October 24 2008

PC Nichol and his son John Dan

I came across the article Conflict in the Community 120 years ago by chance whilst browsing the web. I read it with great amusement and considerable interest as the main figure in the article, PC Nichol, is my great-grandfather. His son, referred to as well, is my grandfather. Dierdre Beaton, who supplied some information, is I think a second cousin. I never knew my grandfather John Dan but I can add that my father was a very religious man, a non-drinker and widely regarded as a thorough gentleman. After reading the article though I regret more than ever that John Dan and PC Nichol both died before my birth. They sound like real characters. Alan Nichol, Australia, October 5 2008

Alan has contributed an excellent article explaining how the Nichols emigrated to Australia - click here to see his story.

Rachel and family at Belmount
Rachel and family visit Belmount Farm in 2008

The Snowballs of Belmount Farm

I am the great-great-great niece (I think that is right) of Robert Snowball, the man who was murdered at Belmount Farm on New Year's Day 1880. For the last two years I have been fascinated by my family's history.

My family emigrated to Australia in 1988. However I have ended up back in the UK and am living in County Durham. When I was moving back here I thought I had no connection to the area.

I can remember stories from when I was little about there being a murder in the family, and can remember going to Blanchland and getting my photo taken beside someone's grave. However, the details of what had happened to Robert were sketchy. All I can remember being told was that he was murdered by the housekeeper!

We only became aware that Belmount was still standing about six months ago. It took us a while to actually figure out where it was. Would you believe that we have been to the grave so many times but never went into the church. When we finally did go in there - there it was marked on the map! Since then I have been many times. Rachel, September 15 2008

Rachel - and her mother in Australia - have contributed a lot of information to the story of The Belmount Murder