Records > Whellan & Co 1894 Directory : Byers Green
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Byers Green Parish - 1894

This parish was formed by an Order in Council dated August 8, 1845, and consists of nearly the whole of Byers Green township, the whole of Newfield township, and the greater part of the township of Binchester, the whole of which was taken from St. Andrew’s Auckland. The portion of Byers Green township not in this parish, and about 112 acres in extent, is in the parish of Whitworth, and the portion of Binchester not in this parish is in the ancient parish of St. Andrew’s Auckland. There is some reason for thinking that Byers Green, previous to the time of Bishop Beck, was a separate ecclesiastical charge. Its area is 1477 acres, and the population in 1892 was about 3750.

Binchester Township is by far the most ancient of the three forming the parish of Byers Green, though it is at the same time the least populous, having but few farmhouses and cottages within it. The area of this township is only 583 acres, with a rateable value of two thousand four hundred and twenty pounds; its population in 1801 was 42; in 1821, 49; in 1831, 37; in 1841, 43; in 1851, 30; in 1861, 35; in 1871, 40; in 1881, 52; and in 1891, 53 souls. The land is held by the colliery owners, Messrs. Bolckow, Vaughan, & Co.

In very early times this township presented an appearance altogether different, a large, populous, and famous city of the Romans having been situated in its southern part. The name of this city was Vinovia, which signifies “Waters Edge,” and it was built on the crown of a steep hill, which doubtless, in Roman times, rose abruptly from the bank of the River Wear. Much of this hill has been washed away by the action of rain and of the springs with which the hill abounded, but there are still very striking remains of the Roman power and magnificence which were displayed on this spot. A very famous hypocaust or subterranean heating chamber was discovered here in the early part of the present century, and many altars and other relics of Roman times were found here in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and subsequently. About fourteen years ago, Mr. John proud, of Bishop Auckland, with great public spirit, entered upon a systematic examination of this interesting spot, and, in the course of his researches, brought to light a great number of remarkable buildings, and discovered many inscribed stones, tiles, coins, and a vast variety of other curiosities. These he placed in the museum of the University of Durham, on Palace Green, in the Cathedral City, in several cases of oak and glass, also provided by him for the purpose of preserving them. In one of these is a sculptured representation of Aesculapius, the deity supposed by the Romans to preside over the science of medicine, and hi daughter Salus or “Health,” with the words-

ME. V. S. L. M

Expanded this reads-


Which is in English-

To Aescuapius and Salus
For the Health and Safety of the Ala of the Vettonians,
Roman Citizens,
Marcus Aurelius [Chrys]ocomas, Physician,
Has erected this in due and cheerful performance of his vow.

Another interesting discovery was made in May 1891. A very large altar was found, in the pasture to the south of the ramparts of the fortified station, which are easily traceable to the north and east of the present Binchester Hall. This altar must have lain in the place which was found from a very early period of the Roman occupation, as it had never been injured in the least, was perfectly legible throughout, and bore traces in lettering of the red pigment with which the inscription had been coloured. The words upon it, which are very curious, are when expanded, as follows:-


In English they read-

To Jupiter the Best and Greatest, and to the Ollototian, or Transmarine, Mothers, Pomponius Donatus, or Beneficiary of the Consul, in gratitude for the safety of himself and those belonging to him, has paid his vow with a willing mind.

“The Ollototian Mothers” are deities new to archeological science, though they were commemorated on altars found at Binchester three centuries ago. That has only, however, become known now, through the finding of the present altar with its perfect inscription, supplying the key to the mutilated inscriptions deciphered or recorded by Camden. The signification of the epithet bestowed upon the Divine Matrons is still, however, undetermined. The altar is at present in the custody of the Society of Antiquarians of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in their museum at the Black gate in that city.

On the road from Byers green to Bishop Auckland, by Binchester Hall, there is, a “howe,” or burial mound, of early date. Near to it is an ancient narrow pavement of small stones, which seems to have been continued for many miles, being traceable from Binchester to Whitworth, and possibly beyond Whitworth in the direction of Old Durham.

There is no village of Binchester, but the Roman camp is now partly occupied by Binchester Hall and the farm attached. The situation is very fine and embraces a splendid view of the Wear valley. John Hutchinson, farmer, valuer, and assistant overseer of Binchester Craggs, and John Edward Newby, mining engineer of Binchester Hall, are the principal inhabitants.

Byers Green Township comprises an area of 1082 acres, and the rateable value in 1893 was nine thousand and seventy three pounds. The principal proprietors of the land are the Ecclesiastical commissioners, Mrs. Duncombe Shafto, Lord Boyne and the rector of Byers Green. The population in 1801 was 77; in 1811, 199; in 1821, 231; in 1831, 207; in 1841,489; in 1851, 1025; in 1861, 1643; in 1871,1852; in 1881, 2152, and in 1891 2346 souls.

The most ancient name of Byers Green that has survived in early records is “The Bires,” in the Saxon tongue “Bearwas,” Other place names of like derivations, still existing in the county of Durham, are Edmondnyers and Byerside. Remnants of the ancient woods are still to be found clothing the dene sides of the parish, and relics of them, in the shape of blocks of black oak, in the beds of the streams. Clearings in the woods of the modern Byers Green appear to have begun to be made in the twelfth century. At that time there were two important houses in existence, outside the present parish of Byers Green, though near to its borders: one on the north, the other the south. The former was called Park, the latter Bynchestre. Regarding the tenant of the latter, we read in Boldon Book- Ralph of Bynchestre holds Hunewye, and pays eight shillings rent, and four shillings for Robert’s clearing. And he holds one clearing at Bires, for which he pays half a mark rent.” Half a mark was six shillings and eightpence. One Geoffrey, the successor to Richard at Old Park, in Bishop Pudsey’s time, appears to have been considerably and importantly connected with Byers green, for several generations after his time Byers was called “Bires Geoffrey.”

The next definite notice we have is of a great sale of wood in Bishop Beck’s time. It was in the year 1308. Thirteen pounds six shillings and eightpence was paid into the bishop’s exchequer as the proceeds of the sale by the bailiff or steward of the manor of Byers green. A great advance was evidently being made in the settlement and peopling of the township.

Seventy years later, towards the close of Bishop Hatfield’s long episcopate, there were a number of inhabitants at Byers Geoffrey, whose names have been preserved to us. The Parks were no longer at Aldpark, but at Byres. Thomas Claxton was at Old park, and before him Peter Kellawe had held the manor, which consisted of 160 acres of land. Richard Park held the manor of Byers and besides that a certain meadow in the township called “Knyghtesfeld,” which had formerly belonged to John Penrith.

There was also John Easton, who held a cottage and croft “in the eastern part of the township.” The same John also had land “in the western part of the township.” This seems to indicate that there was even a division of the population, corresponding probably to the present Byers Green and Tod Hills. Alexander Sarter had a holding called “Gatesplace,” and also some land in “Grienwellfield.” This latter appears also to have gone by the name of Greenwelland.” John Emeremen, William Porter, and Evota all had cottages and land in rhe eastern part of the township. Laurence Waller lived in the western part, Richard park, a son apparently of the lord of the manor, also had a house in the western part “in the field of Westcroft.” The names of a number of other tenants are given, “Exchequer Tenants,” who had various holdings. The names of some of those holdings are given as “Checkerland” and “Taggesland.” These Exchequer Tenants had “ a common forge” belonging to them. It is also stated that there was at Byers a cornmill in ruins. This was very likely a water-mill , situated on what is now called Hag Beck, but which was then known as “Fulpeth Burn.” The names of the Exchequer Tenants were Thomas and William Todd, Richard and John Catell, Richard park, William Wyveslandon, and Roger Trotter.

A generation later, and the great family of Neville, Earls of Westmorland, seated at Raby and at Brancepeth, had overshadowed with their influence the whole neighbourhood. By 1420 they had become possessed of the manors of Binchester, Byres, and Whitworth. In that year Bishop Langley granted a license to Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, to impark forty acres of his land in Whitworth, his woods of Whitworth and Tudhow, and the land in Byres, which he had of the gift of Richard del Park on the east of the road from Binchester to Willington.

When more than a hundred years later, in 1569, the potent Earl of Westmorland of that day conspired with the Earl of Northumberland to place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne of England. Bires felt the severity of the relentless Queen whose sovereignty had been attacked. About 600 of the rank and file army of the earls were hanged, one or two in the villages, and a larger number in the towns, from which they had flocked to the earls’ standard. Four misguided men had joined them from Byers Green, of whom one was hanged; twenty one from Auckland, of whom five were hanged. The owner of Old Park then was Robert Claxton. The Claxtons and the Nevilles had always been close friends.

Coming down the stream of time another century, we find many persons at Byers Green fined or imprisoned for not attending their parish church, Auckland St. Andrew’s. New names appear among the culprits- William Lampton, Ralph Fenwick, James Lampton, described as “gentlemen;” William Trotter, George Iverson, Marin Hartley, junior, and William Greenwell, described as “yeomen;” Jane Vincent, widow, Margaret Vincent, and two other females, described as “spinsters;” and three maimed women. Whether these were Quakers, Baptists, or Romanists we do not know. Most likely, however, they were Quakers.

The descendants of the Roger Trotter of Bishop Hatfield’s time continued for a long time at Byers green. They became the principal family of the place, and lived in a large house at the northern end of the village. A George Trotter was there about the time of the Great Rebellion. A William Trotter, the son or grandson of this George, lived there to a great age, and was buried in his garden in 1713. There is a monument to him still to be seen built in the wall, and his coffin was found with handles and ornaments of silver in 1870. Some time subsequent to 1785, the hall passed from the Trotters to the Shaftos, but it was bought back some years ago by the late Henry John Trotter, M. P. of Langton Grange, in this County. It is now, however, in a neglected and dilapidated condition.

About the centre of the village is another conspicuous house, which was built in the year 1756, by a man deservedly famous in his day. This was Thomas Wright.

Coal-mining operations have been extensively carried on in Byers Green township for many years, the royalties being now worked by Messrs. Bolckow, Vaughan and Co., at their pit, which was sunk in 1877. Here are two seams, the “Busty,” 48 fathoms deep, having a section of 4 ft. With a band varying from inches to feet. The “Brockwell” seam is met at a depth of 76 fathoms, and is 3 ft. 10 in. thick. The two seams yield an average output, when in full operation, of 640 tons per day, and give employment to 600 men and boys. The coal is chiefly converted into coke, for which purpose there are 353 ovens. The “Beaumont” and Harvey seams are also met here.

The village of Byers Green.- In its early days this must have been a charming village, surrounded by beautiful scenery. A great change was made when the coal industry, which is now the mainstay of the inhabitants, was commenced. Pit houses were erected, and the necessary shops, chapels, schools, and other buildings were added. It is three miles and a half north-east of Bishop Auckland, and stands on high ground above the River Wear, which is crossed by an iron tubular bridge, called the Victoria Jubilee Bridge, erected chiefly through the exertions of the Reverend Dr. Hoopell. This crosses the river about a mile and a quarter north by west from the village, taking the place of a former dangerous ford. This bridge opens communication with Willington and the road to Durham, as well as the west and north of the county. The North-Eastern Railway Co. Have a station here three-quarters of a mile south of the village, on the Auckland and Ferryhill Branch. Previous to 1885 the line terminated at Todhills, but in that year the line was extended through to Bishop Auckland, and the Todhills branch stopped. Gaslight is obtained from Spennymoor for the houses and public buildings, though the streets have not yet been lighted.

The Church is a neat stone building in the Early English style, opened in July 1845. It consists of nave, chancel, and north porch, and will accommodate about 300. The cost was mainly defrayed by Bishop Maltby, who also endowed it out of the bishop’s episcopal revenues. The church stands within a burial-ground at the south end of the village. The internal decorations are neat, and the pulpit and lectern are carved of oak. The living is a rectory, in the patronage of the Bishop of Durham, valued at three hundred and sixty pounds, and held by the Reverend Robert Eli Hoopell LL D.

The Vicarage, which was built in 1851, is a pleasantly situated residence, with grounds, adjoining the church.

The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built in 1862, is a stone building, capable of seating 300, and cost three hundred pounds.

The Primitive Methodists have a good brick chapel, with stone facings, erected in 1885, having room for 350, The cost, which was raised by voluntary subscriptions, was seven hundred and seventy five pounds.

The National School (boys) is a neat stone building, situated at the south end of the village. It was first erected in 1854, and has since been enlarged to accommodate 164, the attendance being 105. A good house for the master adjoins. About a quarter of a mile from here is the girls’ and infants’ school, built about 1875. It is a stone building, with room for 272 children.

The General Institute, Reading-room and Library is held in a building purchased from the Primitive Methodists, in 1885, for two hundred and fifty pounds. The library contains 300 volumes; there is a large hall, with accommodation for 400, and a small billiard room.

Post, Money Order, and Telegraph Office, - Thomas Lumley, postmaster. Letters arrive here from Spennymoor at 8 A.M., and are despatched to Willington at 4.50 P.M.

Newfield is a small township containing 206 acres, and its rateable value is three thousand two hundred and fifty one pounds. The number of inhabitants in 1801 was 11; in 1811, 16; in 1821, 11; in 1831, 8; in 1841, 345; in 1851, 1016; in 1861, 1024; in 1871, 995; in 1881, 1150; and in 1891,1130. The West Durham Railway, which formerly passed through this township was closed in 1882. The property in Newfield is freehold, and the principle landowners are the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Messrs. Bolckow, Vaughan &Co. Newfield Colliery, which has been working since about 1840, is being worked by Messrs. Bolckow, Vaughan & Co. The “Busty” seam, 4ft. 6in. Thick, is principally worked at a depth of 9 fathoms; it is reached by a shaft. The “Beaumont,” 2ft. 10in.; and the “Harvey,” 2ft. 9in., are worked by drifts from the Busty. The output which amounts to 500 tons per day, is converted into coke, and used at the company’s works. There are also large firebrick works, supplied with clay underlying the Beaumont seam. The number of men and boys employed is about 600. The first we hear of Newfield is under date 1502-3, when ten oak trees were felled in “ my Lord’s park of Newfield,” for the making anew a certain paling &c. At the same time a certain William White was paid “for felling, lopping, and riving the said trees at Newfield, for every tree four pence,” and John Coke and others paid five shillings and ten pence for the carriage of fourteen loads of paye bords from Newfield at five pence.”

There is a very substantial building at the northern end of the village, now divided into two commodious houses, which was evidently erected in the seventeenth century. It has all the appearance of being occupied by some one of note, probably by the bishop’s tenant, when the woods, which doubtless originally covered the whole of the township, were cleared away. The building contains walls of great thickness, and windows with stone mullions. In the Register Books at Auckland occurs this entry, “Robert Shaw of Newfield, buried in Woollen, 7 March 1682-83.” This may give a clue to the tenant of the property at that date.

The village of Newfield, which consists of houses for miners employed at the colliery, is situated three miles north of Bishop Auckland.

The Primitive Methodists have a chapel here, which was built in 1868. It is a brick building, erected at a cost of about four hundred pounds, and enlarged in 1880 at a further cost of one hundred and eighty pounds. It will now seat 550.

The New Connexion have a room lent them by the colliery proprietors.

The National School, which stands on the hill above the village, has been several times enlarged. It was originally built as a chapel of ease, and was of stone. The enlargements are all of brick, and it will now accommodate 300 in mixed and infants; the attendance 200 in all. Services are held here every Sunday. Adjoining the school is a piece of ground granted by the commissioners for the building of a chapel of ease, which will shortly be commenced. A Literary Institute was established, in 1891, in a house given by the colliery owners. It comprises reading and recreation rooms, and a good library.

Post, and Money Order Office, James William Soulsby, postmaster. Letters arrive through Willington at 8 .30 A. M., and are despatched at 5 .30 P. M.

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