Laithkirk Parish information from Bulmers' 1890.


Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.

Wapentake of Gilling West - Electoral Division of Startforth - Petty Sessional Division of Greta Bridge - Poor Law Union of Teesdale - County Court District of Barnard Castle - Rural Deanery of Richmond North - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.

This parish, consisting of the townships of Lunedale, Mickleton, and Holwick, was formerly a chapelry under Romaldkirk, and was constituted a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1845. Its total extent is 33,307 acres, chiefly wild fell and moorland, and its population, in 1881, was 1,283.

LUNEDALE township is extensive and stretches westward from Romaldkirk to the borders of Westmoreland. It is intersected by the Lune, a small tributary of the Tees, flowing through a deep picturesque dale, which has given its name to the district. The greater portion of the township is occupied by elevated open moors, with many a wild and dreary fell, and gills and glens that bear the names of long forgotten Norsemen. Its area, according to Ordnance measurement, is 22,770 acres, including 65 acres of water. This vast tract is valued, for rating purposes, at £3,524, and had, in 1881, a population of 385.

The most interesting geological feature of the district is the basaltic intrusion, or dyke, extending from Caldron Snout to Middleton, forming the boundary of the Scar limestone. It is extensively quarried by the Lunedale Whinstone Co., at Kirk Bank and Greengates. The total output is about 18,000 tons per annum. Leadmining is also carried on to a small extent at Lune Head, in this township.

The manor anciently belonged to the Fitzhughs, and, this line failing, it was granted by Queen Mary to Sir William Parr, who was descended from Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, Lord Fitzhugh. Sir William, who was afterwards Marquis of Northampton, sold the manor to Sir George Bowes, in 1562, from whom the Earl of Strathmore, the present owner, is descended. The other proprietors are John Dent, Thringarth; George Raine, Turnerholme; Messrs. F. & J. Breckinfield, West Nettlepot; Robert Raine, Romaldkirk; John Langstaff, Greengates; John Wearmouth, East Nettlepot; Mrs. Elizabeth Pinkney, Saddle Brow.

Laith, or Laithkirk, is a small village in this township, containing the church from which the parish has received its name. This edifice, of which the dedication is lost, was erected at an early period as a chapel-of-ease to Romaldkirk. It is a plain rectangular stone building, the usual form of most ancient churches, with a bell turret at the west end. The date of erection is unknown, but it was previous to 1433, as it is mentioned by name in a court roll of that year. There is no mention of a chaplain, but, doubtlessly, one was regularly maintained here in Catholic times. In 1671 the inbabitants make complaint to the Bishop of Chester that they had no curate in their chapel of Laithkirk, "which, formerly, they used to have, whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary." The bishop ordered that, for the future, the chapel should be supplied with a curate,, and that Mr. Ingram, the rector, should pay him a yearly stipend of £20. The church was repaired in 1826, when the old leaded oaken roof was taken off, and a high pitch roof substituted. The east window and four on the south side are of stained glass, inserted at the expense of Sir Frederick A. Milbank, Bart. The living is a new vicarage, net value, £150, in the gift of the rector of Romaldkirk, and held by the Rev. W. Robinson Bell, L.Th., Durham.

The Wesleyans have a chapel at Thringarth, built in 1865, at a cost of £250. The Primitive Methodist Chapel at the same hamlet was rebuilt on a larger scale, with caretaker's house, in 1888. The additional land was presented by Mr. George Raine, of Turnerholm, whose father gave the site for the old chapel. The total expense incurred was £450; the labour was nearly all given gratuitously by the inhabitants. There is also a place of worship at Grains o' Beck, free for the use of any denomination, and used by the Primitive Methodists every Sunday afternoon.

A School was erected at Carlbeck in 1855, and enlarged by the addition of a classroom in 1885. It will accommodate 56 children, and has an average attendance of 50. Divine service is held in it every alternate Sunday.

There is a Poor's Stock of £22, the interest of which is given to such poor as are not in receipt of parish relief.

The following hamlets are also in this township:- Grassholm, Bow bank, Carlbeck, Wemmergill, and Thringarth. The Chaplain of Thringarth occurs as a witness to an attestation of Paulinus, Vicar of Rumoldkirk, touching the right of patronage. This document was written between A.D. 1182 and 1201, and Thringarth had evidently, at that early time, its chapel and priest.

HOLWICK is a township lying north-west of Middleton-in-Teesdale, in the midst of wild and romantic scenery. Its area is estimated at 6,187 acres, including 46 acres of water surface; its rateable value is £2,533, and the population, in 1881, was 231. The Earl of Strathmore is lord of the manor and owner of the whole township, with the exception of about 30 acres.

The greater part of the township is covered by high moors and fells. The basaltic rock, or blue granite, is extensively quarried by Messrs. Ord & Maddison, of Darlington, who commenced operations here about 21 years ago. The first prize was taken by this firm at the Newcastle Exhibition for paving sets, curbstones, and channel-stones. The output is about 100,000 tons a year, and nearly 200 hands are constantly employed. Slate pencil, which is said to be of good quality, is found at Widdy Bank; but the pencil manufactory commenced some years ago has not been a financial success, and the works have been idle since June, 1889. Ironstone has been quarried at Crossthwaite, but the mines, the property of Messrs. Pease & Co., are at present closed.

Middleton Station, the terminus of the Tees Valley branch of the North Eastern Railway, is in this township. It stands near the Tees, opposite Middleton, in Teesdale, and about 2½ miles S.E. of Holwick.

Holwick gave name to a family that possessed lands here soon after the Conquest, and probably before that event; but there is no record of the family subsequent to the reign of Edward III. This place is not mentioned in Domesday Book, nor in Kirkby's Inquest 200 years later; but Crossthwaite, a manor including a large portion of the township, occurs in the latter record. This manor was then held by the Greystocks of the Fitzhughs, and in the 11 Edward I. (1283), William de Greystock claimed against Hugh Fitz Henry, his superior lord, and others, for forcibly entering his chapel at Crossthwaite, and taking away his goods to the value of twenty marks. A large portion of the land belonged to a family named Crossthwaite, whose possessions subsequently passed, by the marriage of heiresses, to the Lowthers, Claypoles, and Deincourts. The village of Holwick is situated near the head of Teesdale, 11 miles N.W. of Barnard Castle, and about 21 miles from Middleton-in-Teesdale railway station. The parochial school is a small building, attended by about 30 children. It is licensed for divine service, which is held every alternate Sunday afternoon by the vicar of Laithkirk. The Primitive Methodists have also a chapel here. Near the village is Winch Bridge, spanning the Tees across a rocky gorge, through which the water rushes with considerable force, and surrounded by beautiful scenery. This is the second bridge that has occupied the site. The first was erected in 1704, and was, without doubt, the earliest suspension bridge on record. Hutchinson, the historian of Durham, speaking of this bridge, says: "About two miles above Middleton, where the river falls in repeated cascades, a bridge, suspended on iron chains, is stretched from rock to rock, over a chasm near 60 feet deep, for the passage of travellers, but particularly for miners; the bridge is 70 feet in length, and little more than two feet broad, with a handrail on one side, and planked in such a manner that the traveller experiences all the tremulous motion of the chain, and sees himself suspended over a roaring gulph, on an agitated, restless gangway, to which few strangers dare trust themselves." The name of the man who conceived the idea, and planned such a bridge, has passed into oblivion; but his design, crude though it was, probably suggested the more elaborated structures erected in other parts of the country,

In August, 1802, whilst a party of haymakers were crossing the bridge from Holwick to their home on the Durham side of the river, one of the chains snapped, and three of the men were precipitated into the river. One of them, named Bainbridge, struck the rocks in his fall, and never rose to the surface; all the others were saved. The bridge was repaired, but in 1830 it was taken down, and the present substantial suspension bridge erected at the expense of the Duke of Cleveland.

About two miles higher up the Tees is High Force, a beautiful waterfall, which, according to Mr. Longstaffe, "may be justly considered as unrivalled in Britain." The water rushes over a ledge of rock into the abyss 69 feet below. Immediately above the fall, the river is divided by a lofty rock into two channels. In dry weather the water is confined to the larger channel, but when the river is swollen by rain, the water rushes impetuously through both chapels, forming a cataract on each side of the central rock. A little below the Force, a timber footbridge spans the river from rock to rock, leading to High Force Inn on the Durham side of the Tees. About five miles above the Force is Cauldron Snout, where the water dashes from rock to rock down a steep and narrow gorge, making a total descent of about 200 feet.

Lonton is a small hamlet 3½ miles S. of Holwick. Domesday Book tells us that, "In Lontune there is one carucate rateable to the geld, and there may be one plough. Torfin held this land; now Bodin has it, and it is waste. There is a coppice, three miles long and one mile broad." The manor was formerly held by the Rokebys, from whom it was purchased by Sir George Bowes, ancestor of the present owner.

MICKLETON is a high moorland township, extending along the south side of Lunedale to the borders of Westmoreland. It contains about 4,800 acres, and had, in 1881, 667 inhabitants, many of whom are employed in the lead mines on the Durham side of the Tees. The Barnard Castle and Middleton railway passes through the township, and has a station here. The township is valued for rating purposes at £3,985. The Earl of Strathmore, who is lord of the manor; the Rev. Henry Cleveland, M.A., rector of Romaldkirk; (for glebe land) the exors. of Thomas William Dent, Esq.; William Dent, Mickleton; Thomas Dent, High Green, Mickleton; the exors. of George Tarn; Robert Anthony Hugginson, Esq., Romaldkirk; John Carter Langstaff, Mickleton; Miss Mary Dent, Barnard Castle; Rev. John Dent, Hamsteels, Esh; Robert Raine, Romaldkirk; John Dent, Thringarth; John Langstaff, Lunedale, are the principal landowners. Part of the land is leasehold, and subject to certain fines.

The manor, at the time of the Norman Conquest, belonged to Torfin, and when the Domesday Survey was made, it was in the possession of Bodin. Later, it came into the possession of the Fitzhughs, and was granted by Royal Letters Patent, in the reign of Queen Mary, to Sir William Parr. In 1561, Sir George Bowes purchased this and other manors from the Marquis of Northampton.

A family, bearing the local name, possessed lands here as early as the reign of Edward I., and their descendants were represented in the parish till the beginning of last century. Christopher Mickleton, in 1657, purchased Crook Hall, near Durham, whither he removed; but the name is utterly extinct in Teesdale. The Dents, the Baines, the Hugginsons, and the Longstaffs were amongst the landowners of the township three centuries ago, and their names are still found in the list of proprietors.

The village of Mickleton is picturesquely situated on the south bank of Teesdale, eight miles N.W. of Barnard Castle, and about two miles from Middleton-in-Teesdale, The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists have chapels here. The village school was enlarged a few years ago to accommodate 120 children, and has an average attendance of 80. The poor of the township receive the rents (£37 7s. per annum) of three dwelling houses, built on the site of a house and garden left by John Blarton, of Middleton, in 1725; and also a rent-charge of 6s. a year, left by John Dent, in 1728.

[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)]


  • Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, professions and trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1890.

Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.