A History of the County of Durham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1928.
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Dinsdale, called Low or Nether Dinsdale to distinguish it from Over Dinsdale on the Yorkshire side of the Tees, lies on the left bank of this river, which here flows mainly from south to north before turning eastward again. The land is mostly from 100 ft. to 170 ft. above sea-level, but at the south and north contact with the Tees the surface descends very steeply to the river, and here the banks are clad with trees. Between these overhanging banks there is an open and more level area in the bend of the river, on which stand the church, the old manor-house (fn. 1) and farm adjoining it to the south, and a cottage or two, the situation being retired and beautiful. The parish area, a narrow strip of country 3½ miles long, measuring 1,174 acres, extends some distance north of the river, wedged between Middleton St. George on the east and Haughton le Skerne and Hurworth on the west. On the south it is bounded by Sockburn, and at this end there is a large plantation on the western side.
In 1537 possession of the manor-house of Dinsdale was in dispute between the daughters and heirs of Katherine Place and their step-brother Roland. The heiresses put in one Richard Barwick to occupy the house, but one October day fourteen 'ryottous and mysruled persons' by the procurement of Roland attacked the house, drove out Richard Barwick by force of arms, so using him that 'he stode in feare and jeopardie of his lyffe,' and remained in possession. (fn. 2) The present manor-house occupies the ancient site. 'It stands within a square inclosure surrounded on all sides by double moats of early date. In it is a hiding-place to which access is obtained from above.' (fn. 3) In the last decade of the 19th century excavations were made near to the building, 'when the foundations and lower story of a large gate-house, a little to the north-east of the house, were uncovered. In it was a square newel stairway and chambers which had been vaulted. The whole was shortly after covered up again as the excavations were inconveniently near the house. No plans were made.' (fn. 4)
The northern or inland end of the parish is crossed by the Darlington and Stockton branch of the North Eastern railway. This end also contains part of the village known as Fighting Cocks, (fn. 5) formed of cottages standing on the road from Middleton St. George to Darlington. There is a Wesleyan chapel here. Low and High Stodhoe are farms north of the railway line.
On the bank of the Tees, near the Middleton boundary, is a sulphurous spring or spa well, discovered in 1789 in an attempt to find coal. It became famous and is much visited in the summer. (fn. 6) The Spa Races were held near it on 17 and 18 March 1842. (fn. 7) About 2 miles up the stream are other spa wells. (fn. 8)
The soil is mixed; wheat and barley, beans, turnips and potatoes are grown. The agricultural land is thus occupied: arable 381 acres, permanent grass 565, woods and plantations 28. (fn. 9) About 1850 the corresponding figures were 643, 265 and 40 acres. (fn. 10) The river runs over a bed of red sand which was sometimes used for building purposes. (fn. 11) Below the church there was a salmon fishery. The dam at Fishlocks, higher up, was considered very injurious to the salmon. A description of the boundary between Dinsdale and Middleton St. George in 1594 gives some indication of a change from tillage to pasture. The bounds began at Countesworth and ran along the line of the High Street towards Sadberge field side. On the west or Dinsdale side of the road 'the ox-close lieth, as also a parcel of ground lying towards Morton field betwixt the ox-close and Sadberge field containing 40 acres, and was about fifty-four years ago (i.e. 1540) in tillage and about that time laid to pasture, with Middleton Moor adjoining to it on the east side of the said highway, the tithes whereof belong to Dinsdale.' (fn. 12) At Fighting Cocks there are iron works and wire is made; some reservoirs of the Tees Valley Water Board are formed there.
The history of the parish has been uneventful. The Protestation of 1641 was signed here. (fn. 13) John of Darlington, a Dominican theologian who became Archbishop of Dublin, is said to have been born in Dinsdale. He died in 1284, having been archbishop since 1271. (fn. 14) Francis Place, an amateur engraver and painter of some note, was a younger son of Roland Place of Dinsdale, and was probably born in this parish in 1647. He was articled to an attorney in London, but being driven away by the Great Plague of 1665, he renounced the law for art. He settled at York, and was a friend of Ralph Thoresby and other notable men of the time; some of his engravings were for Thoresby's Ducatus Leodiensis and Drake's F.boracum. There is a collection of his works in the British Museum. He died in 1728 and was buried in St. Olave's, York, being described as 'of Dinsdale' on his tomb. (fn. 15)
The manor of DINSDALE was coextensive with the parish. (fn. 16) It was held of the lords of Barnard Castle by knight service, forming with Coatham and Stodhoe one knight's fee. (fn. 17) The lords of Low Dinsdale occasionally used the local surname, but more usually called themselves Surtees (Super Teisam).
William son of Siward, who in 1166 held 'Goseford' (Gosforth, Northumberland) and Over Middleton (q.v.) of the king by the service of one knight, (fn. 18) was ancestor of the family. He was still living in 1171. (fn. 19) 'Randulf de Super Teise,' who paid 100s. relief in 1175, on succeeding to his lands in Northumberland, (fn. 20) may be identified with Ranulf de Dinsdale, who with Beatrice his wife and Richard their son and heir before 1186 granted Rounton Church to the Bishop of Durham; and he again is obviously the same as the Ranulf son of William 'super Teisam' of another charter about the same church, Beatrice the wife being mentioned. (fn. 21) The seals of both charters bear the legend 'Sigillvm Ranvlfi Filii Willelmi,' while Ranulf's son Richard, who succeeded about 1196, is called the heir of William son of Siward. (fn. 22) Richard Surtees made a further grant about Rounton Church, (fn. 23) and held Gosforth by the service of two-thirds of a knight's fee in 1210. (fn. 24) He lived till 1222 at least. (fn. 25)
Ralph Surtees, brother of Richard, (fn. 26) was the next in possession. (fn. 27) In 1232 and 1237 he was collector of subsidies in Northumberland. (fn. 28) In 1235–6 he was plaintiff in a suit concerning common of pasture on the moor of Dinsdale. (fn. 29) He granted or confirmed to the monks of Durham the church of Dinsdale, in addition to that of Rounton, for the maintenance of lights around the body of St. Cuthbert. (fn. 30) In 1240, and again in 1253, he formally released the claim he had made to the advowson, (fn. 31) and died in or before 1257, when his heir was found to be his nephew William son of Walter Surtees, aged twentyfour. (fn. 32) William paid 5 marks as relief and had livery of his lands in Northumberland. (fn. 33) He died in or about 1270, and the wardship of his son and heir Walter, who was not quite of full age, was granted to Adam de Jesmond, a justice. He, on going to the Crusade in July 1270, granted it to his kinsman Ralph de Cotum; Ralph also set off for the Holy Land, and sold it to his brother Sir John. (fn. 34) In 1271 livery was granted to Walter Surtees. (fn. 35) He died on 30 November 1278, holding Dinsdale of John de Balliol by the service of one knight; Nicholas his son and heir was eight years old. (fn. 36) In 1317 Nicholas was stated to hold Dinsdale, Coatham and Stodhoe of the Earl of Warwick as one knight's fee, paying 13s. 4d. for castle guard, and doing suit at the court of Gainford. (fn. 37) He had married Isabel daughter of Thomas de Fishburn, who in 1313 was summoned by Bishop Kellaw to answer a charge of incest. The matter was in the bishop's hands for some time. (fn. 38) Nicholas died in 1318. (fn. 39) His widow Isabel in November of that year received dower, having sworn that she would not marry without the king's licence. (fn. 40) She was still living in 1344, when she held dower in Over Middleton and Morton. (fn. 41)
Thomas Surtees, son and heir of Nicholas, had livery of his father's lands in 1318. (fn. 42) By 1339 he had been made a knight, (fn. 43) and in 1346 he was said to hold half a knight's fee in Gosforth, 'called in the book of evidences the vill of Ranulf super Teisam.' (fn. 44) His son Thomas occurs from 1342, (fn. 45) and in 1344 Sir Thomas had licence to grant to his son Thomas and Alice his wife land called Levedyken, and certain rents. (fn. 46) Soon afterwards the father died, (fn. 47) and the escheator was directed to give the younger Thomas seisin of his lands, he having done homage. (fn. 48) Thomas, who was a knight by 1366, (fn. 49) represented Northumberland in Parliament in 1361–2 (fn. 50) and 1372, (fn. 51) and was sheriff there in 1372 and 1378. (fn. 52) He died in 1378, holding the manor of Dinsdale; Alexander, his son and heir, was twenty-two years of age. (fn. 53)
Alexander succeeded his father as Sheriff of Northumberland in 1379. (fn. 54) He was dead in 1380, leaving as heir a son Thomas, an infant. (fn. 55) The wardship was granted to John de Popham, the bishop's nephew. (fn. 56) When Thomas was about ten years old the feoffees were allowed to grant certain lands to him and Isabel his wife. (fn. 57) In 1408 he, being then a knight, was made one of the commissioners of array for Darlington Ward, (fn. 58) and a few years later he was entrusted with the like office for Sadberge Wapentake. (fn. 59) When Sir William Claxton and Sir William Bulmer went to the French wars in 1416, their wives became 'paying guests' at Dinsdale. (fn. 60) In Northumberland Sir Thomas Surtees acted as sheriff for two years, 1420–2, (fn. 61) and in 1428 was recorded as holding the fourth part of a knight's fee in North Gosforth. (fn. 62) He died in April 1435, desiring to be buried in St. Nicholas', Walmgate, York. (fn. 63) His heir was his son Thomas, twentyfour years of age, who at once had livery of his lands; (fn. 64) like his father, he served as commissioner of array. (fn. 65) Sir Thomas Surtees had in 1426 conveyed to Thomas his son and his wife Margaret certain tenements in Gateshead. (fn. 66) Margaret the widow, Thomas Surtees the elder, Thomas Surtees the younger and Katherine his wife and others in 1446 had pardon for any trespass in this matter. (fn. 67) In Northumberland Thomas Surtees had held the manor of North Gosforth, in conjunction with Margaret his wife, by grant of his father Sir Thomas. (fn. 68) Thomas Surtees died on Christmas Day 1443; his heir was a son Thomas, aged ten, (fn. 69) apparently already the husband of Katherine Ascough. He died in or about 1480, (fn. 70) and his son Thomas succeeded him. (fn. 71) The inquisition taken after the death of the latter in 1506 shows that he had given an annuity to his brother William in 1486 from the manor of Dinsdale and another in 1492 to his sister Anne. The heir was a son Thomas, aged thirty-nine. (fn. 72) The widow Elizabeth (a second wife) had dower assigned to her in 1507 out of the manor of Dinsdale and other lands, including Ingdale Close in Dinsdale. (fn. 73) The younger Thomas, the last of the male line to hold the manor, (fn. 74) died in 1511, leaving as heir his sister Katherine second wife of John Place of Halnaby, Yorks. (fn. 75) The father had married a second time, having issue a son Marmaduke, aged sixteen. The inquisition recites various settlements of the estates made from the time of the last Sir Thomas Surtees downwards. (fn. 76) Margery, the widow, had dower assigned to her in 1514. (fn. 77)
Owing to the inability of the 'half-blood' to inherit, Katherine succeeded to the manor. Prolonged lawsuits followed, and ended in 1552 in an agreement between the representatives of Katherine Place and Marmaduke Surtees. The latter renounced all right in the manors of Dinsdale and Stodhoe, Ponteys Mill, the fishgarth, and various other estates, but received the manor of Over Middleton and a moiety of the manor of Morton Palmes. (fn. 78)
Katherine Place left a son Bernard, who died without issue, and three daughters her co-heirs: Anne, wife of Sir Robert Brandling, Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Blakiston, and Dorothy, wife of William Wycliffe, (fn. 79) who left a son, Francis Wycliffe, to join in the settlement of 1552. (fn. 80) Katherine's husband had by a previous wife a son Rowland, to whom William and Dorothy Wycliffe conveyed their third of the manor in 1538. (fn. 81) He died in 1538 and was succeeded by George his son, who in the following year obtained a conveyance of 'the manor' from William Gaytherde, Elizabeth his wife, George Fenny and Marjory his wife. (fn. 82) George died without issue in 1551, when his lands passed to Christopher his brother. (fn. 83) Christopher Place obtained a life interest in the manor of Dinsdale from his uncle Bernard in 1543, and purchased Francis Wycliffe's third part. (fn. 84) Christopher died in 1558; he left five daughters and coheirs, (fn. 85) but two of them, Dorothy Boynton and Elizabeth Forster, conveyed this third part of the manor in 1592 to the heir male, their father's nephew, another Christopher Place, son of Robert. (fn. 86) This Christopher acquired another third from William Blakiston, grandson of Elizabeth Blakiston, in 1597 and the remaining third from Robert Brandling three years later. (fn. 87) He was thus lord of the whole manor, and in 1615 made a settlement of it in tail male on the marriage of his son Christopher to Mary Constable. (fn. 88) He died in January 1623–4, (fn. 89) and his son died a month later, leaving a son Rowland, who died in 1680. (fn. 90) Of Rowland's children, Rowland, the eldest, inherited Dinsdale; another was the artist, Francis Place, already mentioned. (fn. 91) Rowland died in 1713, and was succeeded by a son of the same name, who died in 1717 without issue, his four surviving sisters being his co-heirs. (fn. 92) They sold Dinsdale to Cuthbert Routh in 1718–22, (fn. 93) and Cuthbert in 1752 left four daughters, Judith, Elizabeth, Jane and Dorothy, (fn. 94) as co-heirs, who in 1770 sold the manor and most of the lands to Major-General John Lambton for £15,000, having sold parts of it previously to Robert Killinghall and George Hoar. (fn. 95)
The manor descended in 1794 from Major-General Lambton to William Henry his son, who died in 1797. His son John George Lambton first Earl of Durham built the house called Dinsdale Park as a hunting residence about 1825 and died in 1840. He was succeeded by George, second Earl of Durham, who about 1844 sold it to Henry George Surtees, Sheriff of Durham in 1862. He died unmarried in 1879, and Dinsdale passed to his brother, the Rev. Scott Frederic Surtees, who in 1889 was succeeded by another brother, Nathaniel. Nathaniel died in 1902 and his son John Ralph Surtees in 1914. The property passed to his cousin Aubone Surtees, who about 1914 sold Dinsdale Park, the Spa, the golf course and Wood Head Farm to Sir Henry S. M. Havelock-Allan, retaining, however, the manor-house, the manor farm, Fishlocks and Ashen Farm. Aubone Surtees died in 1923 and his widow and son Aubone conveyed their estate to Henry Patrick Surtees, brother of Aubone the elder, the present owner.
Robert Place of Dinsdale, who compounded for 'delinquency' in 1651, was perhaps the younger brother of Rowland. (fn. 96) Neasham Priory is stated to have owned Hungerle in Dinsdale; (fn. 97) possibly it was the same as two closes called Endell in Dinsdale, part of the priory lands granted to James Lawson in 1540. (fn. 98) The Lawsons afterwards had land in the parish. (fn. 99) Robert Botcherley was the owner of Hungerle about 1820. (fn. 100)
STODHOE has been mentioned above in the account of the Surtees estates; it was included in the 13th and 14th centuries in the manor held by the Surtees family for one knight's fee of the lord of Barnard Castle. Subsequently it was called a manor of itself, and was described as held of the Graystocks. (fn. 101) In 1645 a free rent of 2s. for Stodhoe was due from Marmaduke Wilson to Sir Francis Howard, lord of Neasham. (fn. 102) On the partition of the Surtees lands in 1552 Stodhoe fell to the descendants of Katherine Place. In 1605 John Ward of Hurworth purchased lands from Robert Brandling and Jane his wife, (fn. 103) and after his death in 1631 he was said to have held a fourth part of this manor of the king. His heirs were two granddaughters, children of his son George. (fn. 104) About 1820 Stodhoe was owned by Henry Chapman. (fn. 105)
The freeholders in 1684 were Rowland Place, Sir William Blackett, and Alderman Ramsay of Newcastle. (fn. 106) In 1699 Charles Turner acquired a piece of land in Dinsdale from Sir William Blackett and Julia his wife. (fn. 107)
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST consists of a chancel 28 ft. 6 in. by 13 ft. 9 in., with north vestry and organ chamber, nave 27 ft. 6 in. by 15 ft., south chapel 28 ft. 3 in. by 13 ft., south porch, and west tower 8 ft. square, all internal measurements.
The site is an ancient one, and fragments of pre-Conquest sculptured stones, including two cross-heads, the lower part of a cross-shaft, and half of a hog-back stone have been found. (fn. 108) No part of the present structure, however, is older than about 1196, at which time the church appears to have consisted of a chancel with an aisleless nave. Early in the 14th century the chapel of St. Mary was added on the south side of the nave, the chancel was reconstructed and the west tower built. In 1875, the building being very dilapidated, a restoration was carried out which, while revealing many ancient features, necessitated practically an entire refacing of the church. Almost the only old masonry now remaining anywhere outside is the pink sandstone in the chancel; the new work is of red sandstone. The chancel, nave and south aisle are under separate gabled roofs of slate, and all the windows, with one exception, are modern, though preserving to a large extent the old designs, and the walls are plastered internally.
The chancel has a three-light pointed east window with geometrical tracery and two square-headed windows of two trefoiled lights on the south side. Of these only the jambs, head, and sill of the easternmost of the south windows are old. Between the windows is a disused priest's doorway with modern shouldered arch; the window at the east end of the north wall is similar to those opposite. West of this the wall is open to the organ-chamber by a modern arch. In the restoration of 1875–6 a 'rude stone sedile' (now removed) and a piscina were discovered in the chancel, and a double piscina in the chapel. The arches of the piscinae were restored; the bowls, however, are untouched, and in a perfect condition. Part of a round-headed window belonging to the late 12th-century church was also exposed in the chancel at the same time. The pointed chancel arch is of two chamfered orders continued to the floor without imposts, with hood-mould towards the nave terminating in carved human heads. The arch has apparently been re-chiselled. The roof and the chancel fittings are modern.
The arcade between the nave and the chapel is of two pointed arches of two chamfered orders springing from a central octagonal pier with moulded capital and base, and at the ends from half-octagonal corbels. There are no hood-moulds to the arches, and the masonry is all of red sandstone. The aisle has a large three-light window at the east end, with the mullions crossing in the head, probably a copy of an older one (fn. 109); the other windows, both in the chapel and nave, are modern.
The tower is of four stages, with diagonal buttresses, embattled parapet and angle pinnacles. There is a projecting vice at the north-east corner, and the belfry windows are of two lights, with a quatrefoil in the head. On the north, west, and south sides are clock faces. The tower arch is of two chamfered orders, without hood mould, and the pointed west window is of three trefoiled lights with tracery.
The porch was rebuilt in 1875, but that which it replaced is described as having been 'quite modern.' (fn. 110) The outer opening, however, consists of an old pointed arch of two chamfered orders and moulded label terminating in heads. In the west wall is built an incised grave slab, with a cross and sword, bearing the inscription, 'Goselynus Surteys,' who died in 1367, and two other fragments of mediaeval grave covers. In the east wall are five pre-Conquest fragments with interlaced work, part of an incised slab and the head of a two-light square-headed window. There are two steps down from the porch to the floor of the church.
On the wall above the pier of the arcade, facing towards the aisle, is a brass plate to Mary Wyvill (d. 1668), bearing a shield of eight quarters, with crest and mantling. She is buried in Spennithorne Church. (fn. 111)
The font and pulpit are of stone, and date from 1876. The old font, a plain shallow circular bowl roughly wrought to octagonal shape, stands on a plain circular pyramidal stem at the east end of the aisle. It appears to be of 12th-century date. (fn. 112) The octagonal step is apparently of later date.
The plate consists of a chalice and cover paten of 1571, with the maker's initials IF, probably for John Foxe, and inscribed on the base of the cover 'Ano. Dni 1571'; a paten of 1726, given to Dinsdale Church in 1806, having the maker's initials WA; a flagon of 1757, made by Benjamin Cartwright of London; and an almsdish of 1868, by Barnard & Sons, given by the Rev. J. W. Smith in 1876. (fn. 113)
The churchyard is entered from the road at the south-west through a lych-gate, erected in memory of Robert Thompson (d. January 1908) by his widow. On the north-west side of the church lies a large stone coffin, the lid of which, with a raised cross, still remains.
Norman de Dinsdale, parson of the church, is mentioned among the contributors to the aids from churches in 1194–5; he paid 4s. (fn. 114) According to depositions made in 1228 Norman petitioned the monks of Durham to confer the church on his son, William le Breton, and they did so, William paying them 40s. a year. (fn. 115) This statement agrees with the charter of Bishop Philip, who died in 1208, granting the church of Dinsdale and the chapel of Ponteyse to William; the three marks were for the maintenance of the lights around the body of St. Cuthbert. (fn. 116) This was the service mentioned in the somewhat later charter by Ralph Surtees recorded above in the account of the manor. There must therefore have been some earlier grant of the church to the monastery which has not been recorded. Before 1228 William le Breton asked the monks to give the church to his clerk Nicholas, who was to pay the same pension, and they consented. (fn. 117) The later charters of Ralph Surtees show that Nicholas le Breton ceded the church in or before 1240 and that Hugh of Barnard Castle died in possession about 1253. (fn. 118) The later rectors were presented by the Prior and convent of Durham and on the Dissolution the advowson was in 1541 transferred to the dean and chapter. (fn. 119) Their successors, the present dean and chapter, are now patrons.
The church was never appropriated to the monastery, but the rector paid a yearly pension to it. In 1291 this was still £2. (fn. 120) The value of the rectory was then returned as £4 13s. 4d. a year, (fn. 121) but by 1318 it had been reduced to £3, owing probably to the incursions of the Scots. (fn. 122) At an inquiry made in 1466 the value was found to be £8 4s.; this included 10s. the rent of 2 oxgangs of land in Over Middleton (q.v.), 1s. 6d. tithes of the same, and 3s. tithes of Studhoe field. It was at that time stated that the church had formerly paid £5 to Durham, but this had been reduced to 10s., which it was considered could well be borne. (fn. 123) Nevertheless a further reduction of rent was afterwards made, 6s. 8d. being paid in 1535, at which time the rectory was valued at 100s. yearly. (fn. 124)
St. Mary's Chantry in Dinsdale Church was founded early in the 13th century. William le Breton, perhaps the rector mentioned above, gave his vill of Burdon to the monks of Durham, and they in the time of Prior Ralph (1214–33) founded chantries at Darlington and Dinsdale for the souls of their benefactor and Alice his wife. The chaplain was to receive four marks a year from the monks. (fn. 125) In 1535 and 1547 accordingly the chantry priest received 53s. 4d. from the Prior of Durham. (fn. 126) In 1379–80 Alexander Surtees had the bishop's licence to give Thomas de Moulton and Richard de Norton 10 marks rent in augmentation of their stipends as chaplains in Dinsdale Church for the souls of Sir Thomas Surtees and his ancestors. (fn. 127) In 1541 the advowson of the chapel of St. Mary in the church of Dinsdale was transferred from the monastery to the dean and chapter of Durham. (fn. 128) At the suppression of chantries in 1548 the chaplain was said to have 57s. 4d. a year. (fn. 129)
For the school and Thomas Wyvill's Charity thereto, see article on Schools. (fn. 130) A sum of £120 consols is held by the official trustees for providing the sum of £3 a year for the school.
The official trustees also hold a sum of £94 4s. 6d. consols arising from the same charity in trust for the poor. The annual dividend, amounting to £2 7s., is applied in sums of 10s. usually for poor women in confinement, also in the distribution of beef at Christmas.
James Watson, by will proved at Durham in 1844, bequeathed £50, the income to be applied in the distribution of bread among the poor. The legacy, with accumulations, is represented by £71 19s. 7d. consols, with the official trustees, producing £1 16s. yearly.