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The Early History of Spennymoor

The following piece was written by Bob Abley and Keith Proud who, at the time of writing, were teachers at Spennymoor Comprehensive School.

It was published in the form of an A4 size booklet and sold by the School for the princely sum of 20p in aid of School funds. Dated 1st February 1977.

"The Early History of Spennymoor" by J. K. Proud and R. S. Abley
Latin Translations by G. Corbishley, cover design by Y. W. Newton

There is not a great wealth of reference to the early history of the Spennymoor area, and, although early men, Celts, Romans and Saxons must have crossed the moor, or, even lived on it, little trace of them now remains, except in a few place names.

Whitworth is thought to be the modern rendering of the Old English name meaning 'Hwita's worth' or 'the enclosure of' someone called 'Hwita'. Tudhoe originally meant 'the spur of land of' a man called 'Tudda'. Merrington was the 'settlement of Maera's people', while Byers Green is thought to mean 'the green with the cowhouse on it'. Some of the early inhabitants of the Spennymoor area, then, were called Hwita, Tudda, and Maera. What they were like will .never be known, since there are no records of them, but they left their names to the sites they occupied, possibly during the Saxon period.

Field names, like place names, change with the passage of time, or fall completely into disuse and are forgotten; and geographical features like ponds and mill streams are filled in or diverted. Such happenings often complicate the problem of deciding where places mentioned in old documents are precisely.

One historian who wrote an account of Spennymoor was Robert Surtees. In the nineteenth century, he called the place Spenny-Moor and defined its extent as

"stretching from Auckland Park, or the foot of Westerton-hill, betwixt Merrington and Whitworth, and betwixt Hett and Tudhow, till it approached the Wear near Sunderland Bridge."

It must be remembered that the villages surrounding the 'ancient waste or, common', were there long before Spennymoor was thought of as a settlement. Surtees says that East, West and Middle Merrington, or, to use their modern names, Kirk Merrington, Westerton, and Middlestone, along with Ferryhill, Whitworth, Hett, Tudhoe and Tursdale, all had rights of common on Spennymoor. These villages would be surrounded by their cultivated patches of ancient enclosure, but the whole sweep of country below the high brow of Ferryhill and Merrington lay in waste, bounded on the north by the parcels of cultivated ground which would be easily, reclaimed on the richer banks of the Wear.

Merrington possessed a branch of Durham's Benedictine monastery from the year 1083, so it had a church then, but it is first recorded as 'Kyrke Merrington' in 1331. In 1183, the Boldon Buke, the great local survey of the middle ages, records the fact that the manor of Whitworth, an ancient freehold, was held by one Thomas de Acle, or Aycliffe, who appears to have been tenant of Woodham, near Aycliffe. The actual wording of the Boldon Buke entry is "In Wyteworth there are sixteen villeins, every man of whom holds one bovate of twenty acres and renders and works in all things. Thomas de Acley holds Whitwortha for the free service of the fourth part of one knight”

In return for holding the manor, Thomas initially rendered the Bishop of Durham drengage service, but Bishop Philip de Poitou changed this to the free service of the fourth part of a knight's fee. In other words, Thomas became a knight. 'Drengage' was a form of personal service which involved riding messages for the Bishop, looking after dogs for him, and attending his hunts. The 'fourth part of a knight's fee' was one quarter of the cost of furnishing one armed and mounted soldier. The 'free service' meant that he had to give free military service for forty days at the command of the King or Bishop. In return for this change, Thomas gave the Bishop 'the land and the grove from the dyke of the Old Park as far as the fish pond towards Auckland'. It is impossible now to know where this fish pond was, but James Dodd suggested in 1897, in his history of Spennymoor, that its site was at Binchester Blocks, near the iron church. The 'Old Park' still exists towards Byers Green.

The Bishop's description of the land leased to Thomas de Acle is

"from the nearer ditch which encloses our park towards Whitworth, as far as Yldreburn, and to the place where Yldreburn falls into the Wear."

If Thomas did not change his name from Acle to Whitworth, his descendants certainly did, since Whitworth was obviously more prestigious than Woodham. The family did, however, hold both estates for about two hundred years before Whitworth was acquired by new owners.

There was probably a church at Whitworth as early as the 13th century, possibly as a chapel of ease for Merrington priory. This date is ascribed by Arthur Mee, to the two now decaying stone effigies in the church grounds. There is, however; controversy as to the dates and names of the people represented by the stones. The figures were probably once housed within a previous Whitworth church. The knight is six feet long and on the head of the figure is a cylindrical helmet. The apertures for sight and the weldings or joints are so arranged as to form a cross. The effigy is in an attitude of defence; the shield is borne before the body and the sword is carried erect in the right hand. The scrota extends only as far as the knee. The mails of the hauberk are not shown, or may have been obliterated. The legs are crossed and resting on a prostrate figure, probably human. The bearings on the shield are, technically speaking, two bars within a bordure charged with bezants; these are said to be the arms of Hummed of Brancepeth. The figure was supposed by Dodd and Surtees, however, to represent Thomas de Acle who died about 1290. Dodd further supposed the writhing figure at the feet to symbolically represent a defeated Saracen, assuming this lord to have fought in the crusades. The other stone figure, now broken in two, depicts a lady, possibly contemporary with the knight. Her head rests on a cushion, her hands are clasped as if in prayer, and she wears a loose gown with a cloak hanging from her shoulders.

The Thomas de Acle mentioned above was almost certainly known also as Thomas de Whitworth, since that name appears on a document of 1261 when Thomas was alive. The next lord of Whitworth whom we can trace is Alexander, who died in possession of the manor in 1335. He was probably the son of Thomas, and for holding Whitworth he paid the bishop

"the fourth part of a knight's fee, suit at the County Court, and five marks sent to the Exchequer".

He left the Whitworth estate to his son, another Thomas, who died in 1356, bequeathing Whitworth to his brother John.

A grant of this John de Whitworth, dated 1366, states that there had been 'strife and controversy' between the neighbours concerning the rights of common on Spennymoor. Surtees records that the ‘strife’ was resolved as follows:

"the Prior and his tenants of Hett, Ferry, East, West, and Middle Merrington shall have common in Gellesmore and Wiverpece as far as Uddesake, and from Uddesake as the old dyke runs to Wormdene; saving that all lands sown with corn shall remain in severalty till the crops are cleared".

So, part of the moor was sown with corn and supported that crop in the 14th century, but where, precisely, were the places mentioned in the grant? Wormdene, says Dodd, who had spoken to old people of the area, was the wood or wooded valley beside Ox Close, and the old dyke ran towards the wood. One of Dodod's sources of local knowledge, a man called Tate, contended, in the 1890's, that Uddesake was an old building at the back of Whitworth House. By that time, the name had been corrupted to Eater Slack.

John de Whitworth is named in Bishop Hatfield's survey and is stated to hold the vill of Whitworth by knight's service together with 14 shillings and 10 pence rent, sometime of Marmaduke Muschame, for a certain portion of two parts of the manor of Whitworth; and John paid to the Bishop's exchequer four pounds and eighteen pence.

Before continuing with the Whitworth story, it is of interest to note other happenings in the Spennymoor area in the 13th and 14th centuries. A charter of 1279 refers to another of the fish ponds in the area, this time the East Pool, in Tudhoe, close to the Durham road at Wood Vue. The theory is that this pool and the other at Binchester Blocks were used by the Prior and monks, of Merrington to supply themselves with fish on Fridays: This charter is important in that it contains the first historical reference to Spennymoor and Tudhoe. It contains an agreement between Hugh Gubyoun, Lord of Tudhoe, and the Prior of Merrington. Surtees records that

"Hugh Gubyoun, Lord of Tudhow, granted that the Prior's tenants of Merrington should hold in severalty (i.e. excluding everyone else) certain portions of Spennyng-more which had been brought into tillage, viz. twenty acres in Bradescoate, seven acres betwixt Bradescoate and Barker Meldrit, and sixteen acres at the head of Midel Merrington; saving to Hugh and his men of Tudhow their right of enter-common after the crops were carried; and for this concession the Prior grants that Sir Hugh Gubyoun may turn his mill-race belonging to Tudhow mill into its ancient channel; and, moreover, Sir Hugh and his men shall dig marle wheresoever they will within the Prior's lands, so that they do no damage in the corn nor in the meadows" .

What then was the importance attached to marle, and where was the fish pool exactly? First, the marle; this is a greyish flaggy stone somewhat similar to slate, and containing a large number of fossil fish. It is assumed that its properties as a manure must have been known in the 13th century; it is valuable as a fertilizer because it contains carbonate of lime. Today, it is spelt 'marl'.

It appears that Hugh Gubyoun's mill race came from the east fish pond. Just how many such ponds there were is rather a mystery since their precise locations are not revealed by the early documents. However, Surtees appends to his history two Latin documents which shed some light on the subject, although they refer to the ponds only indirectly. To the modern resident of Spennymoor they must present something of a mediaeval mystery. In translation, they read

"A.D. 1317. An agreement was made between Master Galfridus, the Prior, and William of Heswell, and Dulcia his wife. The Prior and his monks let out to William and his (sons?) 50 acres with two holdings in Spennymoor, but the land begins on the east part and stretches right up to the mill-pool which is situated beyond Wermedene, and from that pool stretches northwards right up to the land which people from Whitworth once held, and from that land westwards towards the King's highway that leads to Durham, and from the King's highway right up to the spring called Hefferwell, and from Hefferwell right up to Thomas Cox's land and on from that land and right up to the stream that runs (will run ?) towards the pool of the aforementioned mill. Yearly payment of 25 shillings. Witnesses: Robert Greathead, then seneschall of the Prior, Adam of Bowes, Henry of Hett, clerk Roger of Eshe, William and others.”

And the second:

"To whom it concerns. Thomas Cox of Merrington. Know that I have granted to John, my son and heir, 30 acres of land in Spenyngmore, lying on the south side of William of Hesswell's land and abutting it beyond the road that leads from Merrington to Whitworth, westwards, and extending right up to the stream that runs from the west, fish pond at Merrington, which I have rented from Prior Galfrid for a limit of 28 years for 15 shillings (per year?). Witnessed by Robert Greathead, the seneschal of the Prior of Durham, John of Halnaby, John of Heighington, William his son, John his son, Alan of Merrington, Richard his son, Michel (?) of the same family. Given at Merrington, 1320.”

The 14th century was not a particularly quiet time despite these seemingly peaceful agricultural transactions. Northumbria was frequently invaded by the Scots, and the beginning of the reign of Edward III in 1327, when the King was only fifteen, saw an army of twenty thousand Scottish horses invade England. Led by Randolph, Earl of Murray, and lord Douglas, they crossed through Cumberland and Hexhamshire and occupied the 'wild and mountainous passes of Weardale' as Sykes the chronicler reported. Their progress was checked by the news that Edward had arrived and based himself in Durham Castle. On July 18th he moved in pursuit of the Scots but the enemy fled back over the border and so avoided a set battle. Edward's army must have marched across Spennymoor on their way to Weardale.

In 1350 Durham was ravaged by the Plague, the so-called Black Death; it seems to have been the practice at the time for the inhabitants of large towns to move out onto surrounding moors to live in temporary shelters. Did the citizens of Durham come onto Spennymoor, and if so, did they bring the Plague with them?

Mention has-been made earlier of Old Park, which adjoins Whitworth on the south-west. It had been given to the Bishop by the lord of Whitworth in 1183. In the years that followed, the land there was cultivated and improved. A meadow near the River Wear was granted to Galfrid del Park who paid tithes to the Bishop. Bishop Kellawe probably gave the Old Park estate to his relatives; the evidence for this is that when Richard de Kellawe set off for the Holy Land in the 14th century, he owned the manor of Ald Parke,

"held of the Bishop by homage, fealty, the fortieth part of a knight's service, and 60 shillings exchequer rent, and William was his son and heir."

By the time of Bishop Hatfield's survey, Thomas Claxton, the younger son of Lyon Claxton and brother of Sir William of Horden, had come into the possession of Ald Parke, which had lately belonged to Peter de Kellawe. The estate contained 160 acres and Thomas had to render knight's service to the Bishop for it.

In 1402, he died, leaving the estate to his son, another Thomas; in fact the estate stayed with the Claxton family until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. One member of the Claxton family was reputedly killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field while carrying the standard of Richard III.

A document of 1412 records that at that time the Old Park estate consisted of a manor-house made up of a hall, kitchen and three chambers, roofed with stone; the other buildings were a stable, a hay-house, a kiln, a granary, and an ox-house, all thatched with straw; there were two orchards, the 160 acres of arable land already mentioned, worth 13s. 4d., and two acres of meadow worth 2 shillings per annum; there was also a-close called Knight on Field or Penret Field in Byres, containing one hundred acres, held by 20 shillings rent.

In 1569 Robert Claxton became involved in the Rebellion-of the Northern Earls, but the venture failed and Claxton was sentenced to death. He was, however, reprieved, and Surtees contends that this was due to some female at Elizabeth's court who had his welfare at heart. He died at Old Park in 1587.

Another Claxton, Sir John, did not offend his sovereign and received his knighthood from King James. However, he showed little interest in Old Park and chose instead to live at Nettlesworth.

The Old Park estate passed in a roundabout way to George Frevill, Clerk of the Ordnance to the army of the Earl of Sussex. It possibly passed through an intermediate ownership before being sold to a family called Parkin. The next owner was Dr. Thomas Wharton who purchased the estate sometime before 1670.

To return now to the history of the Whitworth estate, it was purchased and in the possession of the Neville family bar the early 15th century. These were the famous lords of Raby Castle who were extremely powerful, and who then owned an almost unbroken line of property from Raby to Brancepeth.

In 1420, Bishop Langley licensed Ralph Neville Earl of Westmoreland to impark forty acres of his land in Whitworth, the land in Byres which he had been given by Richard del Park on the east off the road from Binchester to Willington, and his woods of Whitworth and Tudhoe. Twenty-six years later, in 1446, Ralph Neville gave up to the prior of Merrington all his rights to eighty acres in the south part of Spennymoor and forty acres in West and Middle Merrington so that the only remaining common land was then strips by the roadside, even though some of them were quite wide.

The Nevilles retained Whitworth until 1569 when the Earl of Westmoreland took part in the Rebellion of the Northern Earls.

Briefly, this rebellion was aimed at eventually placing the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the throne of England, thus usurping Queen Elizabeth. The Duke of Norfolk wanted Mary as his wife, and persuaded many members of the nobility to support him so that Elizabeth would be afraid to withhold her consent to the marriage. The Duke of Norfolk was not involved in the plot to put Mary on the throne; nevertheless, when Elizabeth heard about the conspiracy she put the Duke in the Tower of London, The Earl of Westmoreland and the northern Catholics had arranged for mercenary soldiers to join them from the continent, but Elizabeth was ahead of the Catholics and ordered them to appear before her. So, even though their plans were incomplete, the rebels occupied Durham end even celebrated mass in the cathedral. They had only 5,600 men but they expected reinforcements from all over England. They did not arrive and when Elizabeth's dispersal force came north there was not even a fight. The Earl of Westmoreland fled to Scotland and then to Flanders, but the Queen took away all his possessions including Whitworth. Gerard Salvin of Croxdale also supported the rebellion and was in danger of his life, but Elizabeth granted him a pardon.

The Crown sold the main part of the Whitworth estate to someone called Watson who had been a tenant of the Earl of Westmoreland. William Baxter inherited the estate by-marrying Watson's grand-daughter. This Baxter was a Royalist and fought for King Charles I during the Civil War, which meant that he was on the losing side. He had to sell Whitworth in 1652 to pay off the fine imposed on him of £247 10 shillings.

The next purchaser was Mark Shafto, third son of Robert Shafto, Sheriff of Newcastle.

Before going any further with the Spennymoor story, one should look at the development of what was to become the life blood of the town for so many years, coal mining.

Coal pits were being sunk and worked at Hett and Ferryhill before 1350. Bishop Hatfield's survey records the-opening of new mine at Coundon, when ropes, scope (scoop) and windlass were bought for the work at a total expense of 5s. 6d. As early as 1354 the monks of Durham were leasing a coal mine in Ferryhill. Coal, then, was valued as a fuel by the monks, but they still needed wood, and some of this came from Hett. The Durham monks maintained a forester there whose stipend in 1416 was 3s. 4d. In 1511 four wagon loads of wood for fuel were carted from Hett to the Priory. In 1524 the tenants of Hett received 10d. a load for carting fifteen loads of timber from this wood to Durham. There was a keeper of the wood who received 6s. 8d. a year.

A lease exists, granted in 1447 to John Brown of Tudhoe and five others by the Prior of Durham relating to land and coal pits in Trillesden and Spennymoor. Trillesden was probably Thrislington although the earlier writers sited it at Tursdale. According to the lease, in Trillesden the lessees are

"to wirke and wyn cole evere day with thre pikkes and ilk pike to wyn every . day overable 60 scopes"


"to have and to holde the said toft and land with the appertenantes and with the said colepit, fra the fest of Seynt Cuthbert in Septembre next for terme of a year then next folowynge"

At an annual rent of 24 shillings for the land and ten marks of 'good Inglissh money’ for the coal pit. The lessees

"sall wirke the said myn werkmanlike, to save the feld standynge, be the sight of certain viewers assigned to the said priour als oft as hym likes to lymet them within the same yeer to serche the same myn.”

Under similar conditions, the coal pit at Spennymoor was let at £20 a year, rent, and the conditions state that, in addition, the lessees "sell of thare awen costages and expens lc--labour and wyn a watergate for wynnyng of cole in the same colepit of Spennyngmore, and the same watergate like as thai wyn itt thai call leefe it in the yeer ende by sight of the said vewers."

This leases is one of the earliest instances of a mining lease in English, all earlier ones having been written in Latin or Norman-French.

The miners were to dig sixty scoops of coal each day, and these scoops were wickerwork baskets, examples of which have been found in recent years in old workings. The 'ten marks' pit rent was £6 13s. 4d. The reference to 'werkmanlike' in the lease suggests firstly that subsidence had taken place and points to the leaving of pillars of coal in the mine as supports; this method seems to have been used in the Durham coalfield since mining began. The mention of watergates or aqueducts for the draining of the pit is a marked feature of 15th century coalmining in the area as it indicates a gradual deepening of the mines.

Small places sometimes play a part in national events, and in 1536 it was the turn of Spennymoor to do so. This was the date of the Pilgrimage of Grace.

The people referred to by Surtees as 'the lower classes' enthusiastically supported the rising and gathered together on Spennymoor. The reason for the Pilgrimage was the opposition expressed by certain people to Henry VIII's closure of the monasteries. Robert Aske led the rising, which tried to avoid violence, and they marched south under the banner of Saint Cuthbert. They joined other Catholics at Pontefract, but it came to nothing as the King put down the rising and executed the leaders, dispersing the other rebels to their homes. After this incident the King set up the Council of the North which governed the north of England so strictly that nobody dared to protest against the King.

Spennymoor seems to have been used quite often as a gathering place for armed forces. On August 12th 1587, the Earl of Huntingdon, President of the North, ordered a 'general array of all the fencible men' of the County of Durham on the moor. Nine thousand men aged between sixteen and sixty appeared, ready to serve the Queen.

Two years later, Sykes, records, the Plague raged twice in the County, and returned again in 1597.

In 1602 there was a murder near Spennymoor. Andrew Tate was tried and convicted of the murder and robbery, of several people at Burnhall, near Sunderland Bridge. He was hanged, on the road 'where the ways to Ferryhill and Bishop Auckland divide'.

More peaceful things were happening too. In 1603 Thomas and John Jackson, described by Surtees as ‘Gents’, granted to Lawrence Wilkinson a messuage and eighty acres, fifty acres of meadow and forty of pasture and common of pasture in Ferryhill and Spennymoor. This 'messuage' to which reference is often made in old documents means a dwelling house, sometimes with outbuildings, and often with an adjacent plot of land.

In 1615 there was another general muster of all the men fit to bear arms in the County of Durham between the ages of sixteen and sixty. They met near Whitworth on Spennymoor and 8,320 of them turned up. The City of Durham and its suburbs sent 560 of these men.

In 1633, during the month of June, King Charles I passed over Spennymoor on his way to be crowned in Scotland. He stay at Raby Castle, then moved on by way of Bishop Auckland and Durham.

When Thomas Watson was owner of Whitworth, he seems to have leased the mining rights to Hugh Wright and in 1626 a row broke out between Wright and a man called Heath. The argument was over the boundary of Whitworth. Wright had apparently been sinking shafts on the common near Middlestone Moor and some of the local farmers objected to the coal being taken from beneath the common, which was communal property. Both Dodd and Surtees report the following extract from the legal hearing between John Heath Esq., and others and Margaret Wright, Hewghe Wright, and Richard Wright.

“Do ye knowe the townes of West Merrington, Mid Merrington, Est Merrington, and Ferry-on-the-hill, and Hett and the saide moore or waist called Spennemore, wherein the coal pitts now in variance are souncke, yea or no? Do ye know the place pretended in the Bill to be bounders viz. the Deadman’s Grave, the waye leading from thence to Ferry-on-the-hill extending westwards to Milderstone and whether is the said ground parcel of Spennimore?”

The ‘Deadman’s Grave’ is the local name, now almost fallen from use, of the field across the road from the Binchester Hotel, where, supposedly, the dead after a locally fought battle were buried in a long ditch.

It seems however that despite the apparent wealth of activity in the area this time, it was not really the case, according to Richley in his history of Bishop Auckland. He states that

“In 1668, Spennymoor and the adjoining moor of Byers Green were open commons covered in heather.”

The Victoria County History of Durham records that only nine years later in 1677 Spennymoor was legally confirmed as enclosed, a situation brought about by the freeholders of the Whitworth area and the squire of Whitworth, Sir Robert Shafto. They approached him with a view to dividing up the moor according to the extent of their estates which adjoined it. There were 243 acres to be shared; Sir Robert Shafto was allotted all the section from Wormdene burn on the east to the Bishop's close road on the west. To William Adamson was awarded the Deadman's Grave field containing ten acres on the north side off the road from bishop's Close road on the east to Byers Green lane on the west, and also a triangular piece of land at the Four Lane ends opposite Spennymoor House. The vicar of Whitworth acquired four acres in a strip next to the b adman's Grave field. John Wright took nine acres, and Richard Hopper received twelve acres between Wright's land and Bishop's Close Farm. The small piece that remained was left as common land. The Shafto family eventually bought up all these small plots, purchasing the last, the section given to John Wright, in 1803. Sir Robert Shafto built the house at the Four Lane Ends known as Spennymoor House, and this was used as an inn. For many years it was the only house on the moor.

The Shaftos had acquired the Whitworth estate in 1652 when it was bought by Mark Shafto, the third son of the Sheriff of Newcastle. This Mark Shafto's grandson, Robert, was knighted by King Charles II and married a niece of Sir Thomas Fairfax, one-time commander of the Parliamentary army. Sir Robert's son Mark next inherited Whitworth and was appointed High Sheriff of County Durham in 1709. When he died in 1723 his eldest son Robert took over Whitworth and in his lifetime he became a Member of Parliament and was knighted, but he died leaving no children so the estate passed to his brother John. John's son was the most famous Shafto of them all. His name was Robert, but he is host remembered as 'Bonnie Bobbie Shafto'. He married an heiress, Anne Duncombe, of Yorkshire and reputedly, by this action, caused Miss Bellasyse, the heiress of Brancepeth, to die for love of him. He was a famous courtier and had a reputation as a man of fashion. It is also said of him that he wasted a lot of the money that his marriage had brought him. Like several of his predecessors, he became a Member of Parliament for the County. He died in 1797, but his name lived on in the ballad about him. It was used at one point as an election ballad for him, and is much longer than is generally supposed. Dodd records the full version as follows

"Bobbie Shafto's bright and fair,
Combing down his yellow hair,
He's my ain for evermair,
Hey for Bobbie Shafto.

Bobbie Shafto went to court,
All in gold and silver wrought,
Like a grandee as he ought,
Bonnie Bobbie Shafto.

All the ribbons flying about,
All the ladies looking, out,
Clapping their hands and giving a shout,
Hurrah for Bobbie Shafto.

Bobbie Shafto rode a race,
Well I mind his bonnie face,
Won it in a tearing pace,
Bonnie Bobbie Shafto.

Bobbie Shafto throws his gold,
Right and left like knights of old,
Now we're left out in the cold,
Bonnie Bobbie Shafto.

Bobbie Shafto's gone to sea,
Wi' silver buckles at his knee,
When he comes back he'll marry me,
Bonnie Bobbie Shafto.”

The Whitworth estate is still owned by the Duncombe Shafto family.

The routes in the Spennymoor area have not always been as they are now. There was once, for example, a great traffic through Tudhoe towards Brancepeth by way of Tudhoe ford. This was not a particularly safe crossing but was passable in the summer months. It fell into disuse in the 19th century.

There was also a lot of road traffic through Kirk Merrington at one time, going from Ferryhill, through Merrington, to Middlestone, Westerton, and Bishop Auckland on its way west. There was probably a track across Spennymoor past Spennymoor House, but it was almost certainly a much more deserted road. One historian suggests that when Charles I crossed Spennymoor in 1633 he went from Bishop Auckland and then from Byers Green to Whitworth by way of Hagg Lane, which was possibly once quite a wide road.

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