Cassop, Quarrington, Kelloe and Coxhoe

Silent Bank and Running Waters

With Shadforth to the north and Old Cassop to the south, Silent Bank forms part of the A181 that steadily rises up the hill from Durham and Sherburn House towards Thornley.

Silent Bank, Durham
View of Durham from Silent Bank. Photo David Simpson

This ancient route-way has sometimes been called Sylum Bank but older records usually refer to it as Signing Hill. Perhaps pilgrims signed themselves with the cross here as they gained their first view of Durham Cathedral to the west or perhaps it was associated with the asylum given to those who sought sanctuary at Durham Cathedral after committing a crime.

The period of sanctuary for criminals at Durham Cathedral lasted 37 days, before or after which they were expected to leave the country, usually via the port of Hartlepool which was linked to Durham by the Silent Bank route. Part of the bank is called Witch Hill and is the name of a local magnesian limestone quarry, but what the supposed connection is with a witch or witches is not known. Maybe people signed with the cross to protect them against such witches.

Running Waters is a place in the countryside alongside the A181 at the foot of Silent Bank and is probably named from the nearby Sherburn Beck and Chapman Beck on either side of the road. It is the site of a pub called the Three Horse Shoes.

Cassop Vale from Old Cassop
Cassop Vale viewed from Old Cassop. Photo © David Simpson 2016


Old Cassop is just off the A181 and is one of two distinct places called Cassop. Old Cassop’s roots go back to medieval times and it is still a farming village in appearance formed from a number of farmhouses. It should not be confused with Cassop, the former mining village across Cassop Vale to the south which was formerly called New Cassop.

Cassop Vale is probably the ‘cat’s op’ meaning ‘valley of the wild cat’ in Anglo-Saxon times. The vale is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) noted for wild flowers which grow on the magnesian limestone grassland and it was historically a hunting park used by the Prince Bishops of Durham. The SSSI also includes marshland and a woodland fringe.

A mine called Cassop Vale Colliery operated here from 1840 until the 1850s but the main colliery which operated until 1868 was at New Cassop. Quarrying of the magnesian limestone stone was also an important activity in the Cassop area.

Quarrington and Quarringtonshire

Quarringtonshire was an ancient district stretching from Sherburn to Tursdale with an Anglo-Saxon name but like other such districts probably had roots going back to Celtic times. The district was still recognised after the Norman Conquest but as a part of County Durham.

Other old shires in Durham included Heighingtonshire, Gainfordshire, Aucklandshire, Billinghamshire, Staindropshire and Wirralshire (between the Tyne and Wear in what is now South Tyneside and northern Sunderland). There were likely other districts but their names have not been recorded.

Post-Conquest Quarringtonshire owners included the Baliols, Rothburys and Salvins, and a John Raket in the 1500s. Old Quarrington was probably the capital, although the Baliol family held a moated manor house called Standalone at Tursdale.

The Heugh, Quarrington Hill
The Heugh, Quarrington Hill. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Quarrington, (originally called Querningdon) means ‘quern stone hill’ and is named from querns or millstones used for grinding corn as it seems the local stone was used for this. The actual hill itself includes a hill spur or ‘heugh’ at its north east corner near Bowburn. The heugh can be seen from the A1(M) motorway and alongside the A688 road linking Bowburn to Sherburn.

There is a farm called Heugh Hall nearby in the vicinity of Old Quarrington. Like Old Cassop, Old Quarrington is an old farming settlement and the history of the two places is linked by a civil parish called Cassop-cum-Quarrington which does not include the village of Quarrington Hill (historically on land that was part of Kelloe). In 1840 Heugh Hall Colliery opened near Old Quarrington and the old village became a mixed community of miners and farm labourers but nearby Quarrington Hill was the main mining village.

View from Quarrington Hill.
View from Quarrington Hill. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Quarrington Hill

The hill top now occupied by Quarrington Hill Village was more than once a location for military encampments in centuries past. During the Civil War in April 1644, the Scots under the Earl of Leven encamped on the hill for seven days before heading to Marston Moor near York to fight alongside the victorious Parliamentarians in the battle there.

Just over a century later, in April 1747, English troops under the Duke of Cumberland camped here for several weeks after returning from victory over the Jacobites at Culloden in Scotland. Traces of their huts could still be seen on the hill in the 1850s.

A Quarrington Colliery opened near Old Quarrington in 1777 which included a pumping engine to remove water from the mine but it was a small scale operation. William Hedley opened a Crow Trees Colliery near Quarrington Hill in 1825. The Mines of the area were linked to Hartlepool by rail.

One of the houses in the Front Street of Quarrington Hill Village is called Aston Villa. It was named in 1913 by a Sunderland Football Club supporter called Albert Gillett who later went on to run a bus company in the village. Sunderland were having a successful season that year and reached the FA Cup final. Albert confidently promised his house would be named after the FA Cup winners. Unfortunately for Albert, the Birmingham side, Aston Villa were victors. Albert had hoped to call his home Sunderland House but kept his promise.


Kelloe has a name that derives from ‘Kelf Law’ meaning ‘Calf Hill’ and its history dates back before medieval times. The hill, now Kelloe Law, is that between Kelloe and Trimdon. There were two old settlements called Kelloe, namely Town Kelloe and Church Kelloe both of which are shrunken medieval villages.

Shrunken and deserted medieval villages are usually places that struggled to thrive economically or suffered from the ravages of the plague in medieval times.

Town Kelloe
Kelloe Hall, Town Kelloe. Photo David Simpson

Town Kelloe is a tiny farming hamlet and home to Kelloe Hall Farm, while about half a mile to the west, Church Kelloe is home to a handful of houses and a medieval church on the western outskirts of Kelloe itself.

Kelloe church is dedicated to St Helen and is part-Norman, dating from 1181 and partly thirteenth century. Kelloe was historically linked to Sherburn Hospital in early times with Kelloe’s farming activity helping to pay for the running of the hospital. The medieval parish of Kelloe included Coxhoe, Quarrington, Cassop, Tursdale, Thornley, Wheatley Hill, Wingate and Trimdon Grange. A memorial to the Trimdon Grange Colliery disaster of 1882 that lay within its parish can be seen outside the church in addition to the one in the cemetery at Trimdon.

Kelloe Church
Kelloe Church of St Helen. Photo David Simpson

Inside the church is Kelloe Cross, an important piece of medieval sculpture dating from the 12th Century and discovered embedded into the chancel wall in six pieces in 1856. St Helen is depicted on the cross. She was the mother of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor of Rome.

Perhaps there was something symbolic about this being a hidden cross. Those familiar with the story of St Helen herself will know that the true cross of Christ was supposedly revealed to her by an angel. On the Kelloe cross the angel is depicted holding a scroll and St Helen holding a spade ready to find the cross.

Kelloe Church
Kelloe Church. Photo David Simpson

One of the Prince Bishops of Durham was closely associated by name with Kelloe. He was Bishop Richard Kellaw, who was Prince Bishop from 1311 to 1316 and may have been born at Town Kelloe. As Prince Bishop, Kellaw primarily resided at Bishop Middleham Castle near Sedgefield. His brother, Patrick Kellaw led an army of Durham men against the invading Scots during Richard’s time as bishop.

Biishop Kellaw's seal
Above: Biishop Kellaw’s seal

The Kellaws took their name from Kelloe and the family name was first mentioned in the 1200s when an Alexander Kellaw is recorded as a benefactor of Sherburn Hospital. This family were lords of the manor at Kelloe until the 1400s when it was sold to the Fossour family who held Kelloe until 1782. Later owners were the Tempests and the Marquess of Londonderry. One of the daughters of the Marquess was born at Kelloe Hall.

Kelloe vicars included Thomas of Canterbury who the Pope temporarily excommunicated in 1314 for not paying his Peter’s Pence tax. Thomas then duly obliged. In the 1600s there was a vicar at Kelloe called John Lively “the vicar of Kellow who had seven daughters, but never a fellow”.

Kelloe itself as distinct from Town Kelloe and Church Kelloe is a former mining village that came into being in the nineteenth century. The pit village and its colliery were once officially called East Hetton but locals preferred to call it Kelloe. The site of the colliery and its first pit terraces are just south of the present village and is now called ‘Old Kelloe’ which confusingly brings the number of Kelloes to four.

East Hetton Colliery at Kelloe opened in 1836 and was initially owned by East Hetton Coal Company. It was named from the colliery at Hetton (Hetton-le-Hole) a good seven miles to the north. The colliery at Hetton-le-Hole was famous as the first mine to open beneath the magnesian limestone of East Durham and produced good quality coal with a strong reputation in the market. Coal from Kelloe was of a similar grade and quality to that of Hetton so the name East Hetton ensured that Kelloe coal carried a strong market brand. Kelloe Colliery finally closed in 1983


Coxhoe is on the old main road from Stockton to Durham on lower-lying land bordered by the magnesian limestone hills to the east. A Roman road known in more recent times as Cade’s Road passes through the centre and more or less follows the Stockton to Durham turnpike road of 1742 that is now part of Coxhoe’s Front Street.

Coxhoe’s Anglo-Saxon name means ‘hill spur or a heel of land belonging to someone called Cocc’. The deserted medieval village of Coxhoe stood to the east, half between present day Coxhoe and Kelloe. A cleared piece of land within a wood marks the point where the village stood. It was abandoned in the 1500s but traces can be seen on aerial photos. The cleared land also marks the site of Coxhoe Hall.

In medieval times Coxhoe belonged to Finchale Priory to whom it was given as a gift by Walter Audre who wished to be buried there. The longest owners of Coxhoe were the Blakistons, a Catholic family who came from Norton near Stockton and owned Coxhoe from 1318 to 1617. Coxhoe then passed through marriage to the Catholic Kennetts of Kent, one of whom was killed in battle at Marston Moor.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In the early eighteenth century Coxhoe was sold to John Burdon, the wealthy son of a Newcastle merchant who, in 1725, built the fourteen bedroom Coxhoe Hall and a park on the site of Coxhoe manor house. Later Burdon moved on to Hardwick near Sedgefield where he built Hardwick Hall and its park in the 1740s.

Coxhoe Hall’s most famous residents arrived in 1795. Edward Barrett, a sugar plantation owner in the West Indies settled here that year and leased the property from its owners.

Edward’s great granddaughter, the famed poet Elizabeth Barrett Moulton Barrett was born at the hall in 1806. It was through marriage that she was later known as Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Elizabeth was baptised at nearby Kelloe church in 1808 and here is a memorial inside the church to her name. In truth Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her family departed from Coxhoe in 1809 and headed for Herefordshire.

In 1850, a mining engineer Thomas Wood resided at the hall and by the 1930s it belonged to the East Hetton Colliery Company. It then served as an army barracks and prisoner of war camp. Unfortunately, successive mining caused subsidence and the hall was condemned and demolished in 1952.

Although mining and quarrying were noted in the Cxshoe area back in medieval times, Coxhoe’s main road did not become the focus for the village until the nineteenth century when the two industries boomed as the result of the railways which enabled local coal and stone to be efficiently shipped to the ports of Tees and Hartlepool.

Coxhoe’s place on the main road ensured its importance as a centre for the surrounding mining villages in a similar way as this same road contributed to the growth of the town of Chester-le-Street further to the north. In fact Coxhoe was virtually a small town with 30 pubs and even had two railway stations at either end of its main street.

Coxhoe. Photo David Simpson

Coal mines in the area included Crowtrees Colliery near Quarrington Hill of 1825 opened by William Hedley the inventor of the Puffing Billy locomotive. Others followed: Bell’s Pit at Park Hill in 1827; Coxhoe Colliery of 1835; West Hetton Colliery of 1837; Clarence Hetton or Clay Hole Colliery of 1839; the first Bowburn Colliery of 1840 and Heugh Hall Colliery near Old Quarrington in 1841. Most of the collieries were worked and closed before the 1880s. Coxhoe was also home to an iron works from the1850s to the 1870s opened by the brother of the Wylam and Shildon railway engineer Timothy Hackwoth.

As far as collieries were concerned it was boom and bust with the collieries of Coxhoe worked and closed by the 1880s. Quarrying continued however with the Steetley limestone works in the hills just east of the main road operating until the 1960s. Known as the Basic Works they are recalled in the name of Coxhoe’s ‘Basic Cottages’.

Garmondsway and Raisby

Significant quarrying activity continues in the neighbourhood of Coxhoe, notably in the Raisby-Garmondsway area to the south where it began in 1845. Garmondsway and possibly Raisby are both deserted medieval villages. Significant traces of the site of Garmondsway village to the south of Coxhoe and Kelloe are located near Garmondsway East Farm.

Garmondsway was noted as the place where King Canute, the Viking ruler of England and Denmark began his barefoot walking pilgrimage to St Cuthbert’s shrine at Durham in 1020 AD. The event is an historical fact but the story that he had his hair trimmed and donned a cloak at Trimdon is probably a later embellishment. The name of Garmondsway is Anglo-Saxon in origin and means Garmund’s Road, though who Gardmund was is not known.

Raisby, now only a farm name is situated on Garmondsway Moor and might also be the site of a deserted medieval village. Its name is intriguing because it ends in ‘by’ which usually indicates a Viking settlement of Danish origin. However the place came into existence after the Norman Conquest and was first recorded in 1183. It was around that time that a man called Race Engaine gave a piece of land in the Kelloe area to the medieval hospital at Sherburn and the name Raceby seems to commemorate this. Raceby means ‘Race’s farm’ but its site is probably lost in this extensively quarried landscape.


Bowburn is named from the Bowburn Beck – or simply the Bow Burn, which flows in the shape of a bow though in distant times it was known as the Wedhope Burn. Much of the stream runs in a culvert through Bowburn.

A Bowburn Colliery was opened about 1840 by John Robson and Ralph Ward Jackson but was a small mine close to Coxhoe where the motorway interchange is today. Bowburn as a village was then yet to come into existence being only a tiny hamlet with some neighbouring pubs located on the road to Stockton which more or less follows the Roman Road that continues south through Coxhoe.

When the Teesside iron firm, Bell Brothers who already operated nearby Tursdale Colliery opened a larger Bowburn Colliery at Bowburn itself in 1908 it brought about the birth of the mining village of Bowburn. Bowburn Colliery and possibly the village were originally going to be named ‘New Tursdale’ by the mine owners.

Bowburn Colliery closed in1967 and in recent years Bowburn has grown with new estates that are conveniently situated for commuters with access to the nearby motorway. Bowburn Hall Hotel just to the west towards the distinctive hill of the Quarrington ‘Heugh’ was a former colliery agent’s house called Bowburn Grange and dates from the 1920s. It later served as offices for the National Coal Board.

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