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"This extensive parish, the most northerly one in the south-east division of Darlington ward, comprises the townships or constableries of Aycliffe, Brafferton, Preston-le-Skerne, and Woodham. It is bounded on the north by Merrington and Bishop Middleham, on the south-west by New Shildon, on the south-east by Bishopton, on the west by Heighington, on the south by Haughton-le-Skerne, on the south-east by Sedgefield and Great Stainton.

"Great Aycliffe Township contains 2120 acres, and the ratable value is £8081. The main line runs through this township, as does also the Darlington and Auckland line, Heighington station being in this township. The village of Great Aycliffe is pleasantly situated on the west bank of the Skerne, and possesses an extensive green, around which the main portion of the houses stand, and in which is the pant. The great North Road passes through the western part, along which the village extends. It is five miles north of Darlington. This village was in early times known as Acle, Aclea, Acleia, &c., and is still sometimes called "Yackley." The Skerne, which is a slow flowing stream, is crossed by a bridge near the railway, on the east of the village. Linen was formerly manufactured, but was discontinued about 1837.

"Brafferton is a township and village. The area of the township is 2273 acres. The ratable value is £5532. The village is situated on a hill a little to the east of the Skerne, four and a half miles north of Darlington, and one mile south of Aycliffe. There is a small Methodist chapel here.

"Ketton is situated on rising ground above the Skerne, east of the great north road, about half a mile south of Brafferton. It is an old residence, sheltered by a rookery, and occupied by Mr. J. F. Green. here the celebrated "Short Horn" was first bred by Charles and Robert Colling, about 1810, and known as the Durham ox. To the north-east of Newton Ketton, in a singularly shaped field, four rivulets have their sources; and during a great part of the year water may be seen running in four different directions.

"Preston-le-Skerne Township contains 2610 acres and its annual value is £13,006. It is a mere hamlet, though it is believed to have been a considerable village in the last century. It is six miles north by east from Darlington, and takes its name from the stream that flows slowly north and south through the township.

"Woodham Township forms the northern part of Aycliffe parish, and comprises an area of 3705 acres. The ratable value is £9554. The village is situated on the great North Road, about eight miles from Darlington, and has fallen into decay during the past fifty years. Tradition informs us that at some remote period this place was burnt down by the Scots, and foundations of buildings may yet be discovered near the Skerne, which is here crossed by a bridge. Races were formerly held at Woodham Moor."

[From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan , London, 1894]



The monumental inscriptions in the churchyard of St. Andrew have been transcribed, indexed and published by the Cleveland Family History Society.



"Great Aycliffe Township - The population in 1801 was 640; in 1811, 633; in 1821, 807; in 1831, 937; in 1841, 823; in 1851, 812; in 1861, 840; in 1871, 822; in 1881, 839; and in 1891 was 695.

"Brafferton - The population in 1801 was 212; in 1811, 204; in 1821, 263; in 1831, 247; in 1841, 211; in 1851, 206; in 1861, 254; in 1871, 236; in 1881, 171; and in 1891 was 157 souls.

"Preston-le-Skerne Township - The population in 1801 was 119; in 1811, 127; in 1821, 126; in 1831, 176; in 1841, 131; in 1851, 139; in 1861, 146; in 1871, 137; in 1881, 135; and in 1891 was 102.

"Woodham Township - The population in 1801 was 166; in 1811, 165; in 1821, 183; in 1831, 204; in 1841, 207; in 1851, 209; in 1861, 218; in 1871, 179; in 1881, 145; and in 1891 was 112."

[From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan , London, 1894]

The 1851 Census Index (booklet 49) published by the Cleveland Family History Society may be of value to researchers interested in this parish.


Church History

"The Church, which is dedicated to St. Andrew, is situated on a hill a little to the south-west of the village, and forms a picturesque object in the scenery of the neighbourhood. It consists of nave, side aisles, chancel, tower, and southern porch. It is an ancient edifice, the chancel being the earliest portion, probably of the date 1160 to 1180, though the nave is very little later, and the north aisle was added a little later still. The original nave and chancel was extremely simple and plain. The south aisle is considerably later than the nave, probably about the time the massive square tower was added (1240-1250). The church was repaired in 1835 and again in 1852. In 1881-82 it underwent a thorough restoration, when a vestry and an organ chamber, with organ, were added, the cost amounting to £3280. The restoration was carried out with due care for the preservation of the original style of the edifice."

[From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan , London, 1894]


Church Records

"The parish register commences in 1560." [From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan , London, 1894]

The Parish Registers for the period 1560-1979 are deposited at Durham County Record Office, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL (EP/Ay).

Marriage indexes for 1560-1837 (69 kbytes) from the George Bell Collection of Durham and Northumberland Indexes.

The Marriages (1560-1837) are included in the Joiner Marriage Index

Description and Travel

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Historical Geography

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