The Winlaton Story


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Part 2.  The Manor of Winlaton

After the Saxons had settled at Winlaton Mill and their sons and daughters had grown up, the problems caused by this minor population explosion would be the spur for them to seek new farmland to exploit. Therefore the younger families would branch out into the countryside, some up into Hollinside, some up into Old Axwell and some to Winlaton. The date of this movement is anyone's guess, but it would be somewhere between A.D. 650 and A.D. 900. In the case of Winlaton, the latter date appears to be the most favoured.

When the settlers arrived at their new situation, their first job would be to build themselves a home. These would be the usual 'cruck built', daub and wattle houses surrounded by a stockade. The last syllable of Winlaton tells us this, i.e. tun or ton - a place enclosed - with the prefix of 'winel-ac' (twisted oak). Knowing that the area was covered in forest at this particular time, it is not surprising to find that a local landmark was a large twisted oak, and so the site became known Wynlakton.

The most probable spot for the foundation of the village would be on the site which is known as the Manor House, in North Street. This house in all probability stands upon the foundations of the original Saxon settlement. Standing just on the brow of the hill leading from Blaydon Burn, alongside the old Ancient British Highway connecting up with the Roman Ford at Newburn and the road up to Clockburn, the settlers' new home would be sheltered from the elements on three sides by the thick oak forest and tucked under the spur of the hill which overlooks the area. There is an excellent view down the River Tyne, which would give them ample warning of Danish raiding parties - no small threat those days. Then there would be an ample supply of water from the many springs hereabouts. We know from our own times the abundance of wells which the village depended upon before we had a piped water supply. Later a corn mill was erected on the Blaydon Burn for the use of the manor, apart from the original manor mill at Winlaton Mill. A legacy left from those days is perpetuated in the name of Croftdale Road. These fields were known in days gone by as the Horse Crofts. The word 'croft' is Saxon, and signifies a little close or piece of ground adjoining a house for pasture.

When the Saxons first came they were a band of pioneers, all more or less equal and acting under a chosen leader, but in later years things changed and the ordinary working people were more like slaves, with the Thane as their overlord. This arrangement however, was of advantage to everyone, because in lawless times it was worth losing some degree of freedom in exchange for the protection of a strong lord, and the lord's land became known as the Manor.

The Manor of Winlaton is quite extensive, indeed, in later years, to make it more manageable, it was divided into two parts, East and West Winlaton. It extended from Derwenthaugh to Lintzford, the River Derwent being the border line. From Lintzford it took a N.W. direction through the Beda Hills to High Spen, taking in the present village just above the Strothers and then taking a northerly direction to the head of the Blaydon Burn, following the line of the Burn to Blaydon. The border line also encloses that strip of land which now lies in Northumberland, but lay in Co. Durham before the course of the river was altered and the river ran around by Lemington. From there the boundary followed the Tyne back to Derwenthaugh.




The largest landowners in the country were the monasteries, and in the first documentary evidence regarding Winlaton in 1086 it states that the Bishop of Durham gave the monks of Durham the village of Newton Katton in exchange with one, Meldred, for the village of Winlaton. Now this charter is known to have been a forgery, but the information is not thought to have been false, its point of interest is that this Meldred was an ancestor (through marriage) of the Nevilles who were to hold the manor for nearly five hundred years.

The next reference we have to Winlaton is in 1183, in the "Boldon Book" which states "Wynlakton and Berley are on lease with the demesne and the villein service, and with the farmstock, under £15 rent. Besides the tenants in the villeinage now the Lord's meadow (each two day's work with one man) and they receive their carrody and win and lead the hay, one day's work. The marsh, the meadow and the woodland are reserved to the Lord. The mill pays five marks and a half".

Although no name was given in the Boldon Book of the Lord it has been proved in later documents to have been another Fitz Mildred, thereby proving the authenticity of the contents of the forged charter. Another interesting point is that Winlaton is only one of two places where the woodland is specially mentioned.

In 1213, Robert Fitz Meldred married Isobel, sister and eventually heiress of Henry de Nevill, and their son Geoffrey took his mother's name, and so Winlaton was added to the already large estates of the Nevills. Although the Nevills were the lessees of the manor, they also sub-leased to other tenants. Therefore in 1361, we find that "Agnes, widow of John Menevevylle, held of Ralph Neville the hamlet of Huntleyshaugh in Wynlakton by 2s. rent". The same Agnes also rented lands at Thornley by 40s. rent; and in 1370 "Katherine, widow of Hugh de Fery, held four messuages and a hundred acres in Barley and Spen, of John Neville Knt., by 3s. rent and a suit at the Manor Court of Winlaton".

In 1377, the Nevilles were created Earls of Westmoreland, and in July, 1569, Charles, the sixth earl, in order to raise money for his part in what was called the Rebellion of the Earls, sold the "Manor of Wyndlaton, and messuages, land, etc., in Wynlaton, Baytehouses, Spen, Lintzford and Barlay, and a free fishery in the Tyne, with four water mills and four fulling mills, to Richard Hodson, Robert Anderson, William Selby and Humphrey Skryvenor, merchants of Newcastle, for £3,000. Humphrey Skryvenor apparently died, and in 1577 Richard Hodson acquired his share. The Manor continued in the hands of these three families until 1632, when a new agreement was drawn up and it tells us that Sir Wm. Selby held one half, Robert Anderson one eighth and Sir Robert Hodson three eighths of the lands. Sir Wm. Selby died in 1649, having survived his son William, who was slain in 1636, by John Trollop in a duel at a horse race at Whitehall Dike Nook and was succeeded by his second son George who died in 1688. In July 1673, George Selby conveyed his share of the manor, minus one sixth to James Clavering, in whose estate this portion now rests. The one sixth remainder was sold to Sir Edward Blackett.

As to the Hodgson's share, Sir Robert died in 1643, and was succeeded by his brother William, whose property was forfeited in 1645, because he was a recusant, but later restored. On William's death in 1661, his two daughters were co-heiresses, Alice, who married Sir Thomas Tempest of Stella, and Mary, who married Robert Brandling and died soon afterwards without issue. So the Hodgson's share passed to Sir Thomas through his wife.

Sir Thomas died in 1692 leaving a son, Sir Francis and a daughter Jane who married William, Lord Widdrington. Sir Francis who had inherited his father's estate died in 1698, and his share of the manor passed to the Widdringtons through the marriage to Jane. Lord Widdrington was captured and sentenced to death for his part in the "fifteen" rebellion, but was later reprieved and all his estates were ordered to be forfeited. Stella and Stanley estates escaped forfeiture as they were deemed to have been held in right of his wife Jane, (who died in 1714). Lord Widdrington died at Bath in 1745. He was succeeded by his eldest son Henry Francis, who died in 1772 and was buried in London. By his will, he left the Stella estate first to Thomas Eyre of Hassop, and his heirs male. Thomas Eyre died without heirs in 1792, and the estate became the property of Edward T. S. Standish, of Standish, who also died without heirs in 1807, when Stella fell to John Towneley of Towneley, who died in 1813 and was succeeded by his son, Peregine Towneley, who died in 1846. His eldest son Charles, held the estate until his death in 1876, leaving three daughters. Charles was succeeded by his brother John, who died in 1878, when the widow of John held them for a while. Afterwards a private Act of Parliament called the "Towneley Estate Act" was passed giving the Durham estates to the daughters of John Towneley whose descendants are still joint Lords of the Manor.

Robert Anderson died in 1640 and his lands in Winlaton were left to his wife Jane, who shortly after married Sir John Innes, who served as a captain under Prince Rupert after the civil war. Lady Jane died in 1662 and her share of the manor passed to Sir Francis Anderson of Bradley. Sir Francis died in 1679, his son Henry became heir, and himself dying in 1697, the estates passed to a granddaughter Jane who married John Simpson. Through various intermarriages of sons and daughters the one eighth part of the manor originally belonging to Robert Anderson passed partly to the Claverings, partly to the Ravensworth and partly to the Bute families.

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© Copyright 1971, R. Anderson

First published in The Bellman (the Blaydon Urban District Council newsletter) No 17, April 1970.