A History of the County of Durham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1928.
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The parish of Greatham, which includes the townships of Greatham and Claxton, covers 2,482 acres on the north bank of the Tees estuary. In the south and east of the parish, where the Greatham Creek joins the Tees, the ground is low and alluvial. It gradually rises, however, to about 100 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north-west of the township of Claxton, and most of the parish is gravel on a subsoil of Keuper marls. It is watered by two streams, Claxton and Greatham Becks, both flowing south into Greatham Creek, which forms the southern boundary. About 1,100 acres are under cultivation, the chief crops being wheat, oats, potatoes and turnips. (fn. 1)
The village of Greatham, on the east bank of Greatham Beck, has a main street running south from the high road between Wolviston and West Hartlepool. In the 15th century an attempt was made to convert it into a market town. Henry VI granted a Wednesday market in 1444 to the Master and Brethren of Greatham Hospital, with fairs on the vigils and feasts of St. George and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the two days following (22 to 25 April and 13 to 16 September). (fn. 2) These markets and fairs are not again mentioned, and evidently did not prosper. A yearly 'feast' is held, however, on St. John Baptist's Day (24 June), and is known as 'Greatham Midsummer.'
The hospital of Greatham stands on the west side of the village street. The buildings date only from 1803–4, when they were reconstructed by John William Egerton, Earl of Bridgwater, the master. (fn. 3) Architecturally of little or no merit, being in the pseudo-Gothic style of the day from a design by Wyatt, they nevertheless possess a certain picturesqueness due in a large measure, no doubt, to their pleasant surroundings. The buildings are of a single story and face the south, with a wide centrally placed entrance porch of three pointed arches, above which, flanked by embattled parapets, rises a square clock tower, surmounted by an octagonal lantern or bellturret. The walls are of stone and have been stuccoed. Over the entrance is a stone with the following inscription (fn. 4) :—
IN FRATRVM HVIVS HOSPITII VSVM
NON SINE GRATA PATRIS SVI
NVPER EPISCOPI DVNELMENSIS
IMPENSIS IOHANNIS GVLIELMI EGERTON
COMITIS DE BRIDGEWATER
ANNO DOMINI MDCCCIV
REPARATVM . ORNATVM . AMPLIFICATVM
In the middle of the building is a large hall, round which the rooms of the brethren are arranged on three sides. Surtees, writing about twenty years after the erection of the present buildings, says: 'It is not easy to form any opinion as to the appearance of the original buildings of the Hospital; they seem to have stood on a plot of ground, which now forms a lawn in front of the present structure. Two lines of ancient trees, skirting the ground and sheltering it on two sides, exactly mark out the site.' (fn. 5) In 1724 the whole of the hospital buildings, as well the Master's house as the lodgings of the Brethren, were extremely ruinous and dilapidated, propped in some places on the outside by large pieces of timber. (fn. 6) The master's house, known as Greatham Hall, a plain stone building of three stories, to the south-west of the hospital, was built in the following year by Dormer Parkhurst, master. It was stuccoed about 1820 and additions were made in 1857. The chapel stands directly to the west of the parish church and to the south-east of the master's house. Having become ruinous, the old building was taken down in 1788 and the present structure erected on the old foundations except on the north side. In plan it is a plain rectangle measuring internally 36 ft. 6 in. by 24 ft. 6 in., with a bell-turret at the west end forming a small porch 5 ft. by 3 ft. 6 in., approached by a flight of steps. The roof is slated, and finishes on a moulded corbel table which is carried along the end gables. There are three round-headed sash windows on each side, and a similar window now filled with stained glass at the east end. Above the east window outside is the date 1788 with a carved head over. The turret has two round-headed openings east and west and one to the north and south, and has a hipped slated roof with good iron weather vane. An old stoup is built into the south end of the east wall, and the ancient altar slab is still in use. In the centre of the flagged floor is a large slab of blue stone round which, on a fillet of brass, is the inscription, '+ Hic Iacet Magister Wilelmvs de Middiltovn Sacre Pagine Doctor Qvondam Cvstos Dom istivs Orate Pro Eo.'
On the north wall is a brass with an inscription in Gothic characters: 'Orate pro a[nima]abus Nicholai hulme Jo[han]is Kelyng et Wi[llel]mi Estfelde clericorum quond[am] huius hospital's magistrorum ac parentum fundatorum suorum benefactorum atqz o[mniu]m fidelium def[un]ctorum quorum a[nimabus] p[ro]picietr deus Amen.' (fn. 7)
Hutchinson, writing a few years before the demolition of the old chapel, describes the chancel as entire, but the nave as much mutilated, 'nothing but the cross aile remaining at the north-west and southwest corners, at which you enter; and there is a short aile at each end, formed by two pillars supporting pointed arches … the pillars of the south aile are circular, the north octagonal.' (fn. 8) The chancel alone was then used for divine service, the 'outer part serving as a saloon or portico, separated by a screen and stalls covered with heavy canopies of wood-work.' (fn. 9) Over the entrance to the chancel were the Royal arms dated 1696. The chapel contained a 'fine recumbent effigy, delicately cut in stone,' and the wooden effigy of an ecclesiastic said to have been that of Andrew Stanley, the first master. Both figures have disappeared. (fn. 10) Below the latter was found a stone coffin containing a skeleton with a chalice lying on the left side.
The plate consists of a covered cup and paten of 1670, inscribed 'The gift of Sr Gilbert Garard to ye Chappell of Gretham Hospitall for ever,' and with the donor's arms; and a flagon of German or Dutch make chased on the sides with three designs representing Faith, Hope and Charity, with inscriptions in Latin. (fn. 11)
In 1910 the hospital lodged thirteen brothers. Though it was always designed as a refuge for the poor, it seems in the 16th century to have been used rather as a house of entertainment for gentlemen. The Duke of Suffolk intended in 1543 to be there 'with his grewhondes' (fn. 12); and in 1569 the Bishop of Durham stated that 'the last master had kept a good house for gentlemen, but not so many poor nor so well used as the foundation requires.' (fn. 13) Probably this state of affairs was altered after the second foundation of the house in 1610. (fn. 14) Near Greatham Hall is the parish church of St. John Baptist. On the north is the hospital for six poor widows founded by Dormer Parkhurst in 1762. Higher up the street is a Methodist chapel.
About 1240 a toft outside the vill of Claxton' was quitclaimed to Leo de Claxton. There is now no village of Claxton, and the population of the township lives in a few scattered farms, the chief of which is Claxton Grange. The toft in question was ' on the north side of the way leading to Hartlepool,' (fn. 15) from which it seems that the footpath leading from Claxton Farm across Greatham Beck into the Hartlepool road was once itself a road. There was a manor-house at Claxton in the 15th century, (fn. 16) of which no traces remain.
The West Hartlepool branch of the North Eastern railway passes through the parish, and has a station half a mile to the south of the village. Adjoining the station are the Greatham saltworks. The salt industry is of very long standing in the parish, (fn. 17) though it had a period of eclipse in the 18th and 19th centuries. The will of Thomas Gaile, dated 1581, mentions his sand and coal at the saltcote, and his twenty-seven 'hives' of salt. (fn. 18) In 1650 it was stated that the saltcotes had been washed away or ruined by the tides, and the salt rent paid to the hospital by various farms adjoining the marshes was reduced to eight loads per annum. (fn. 19) Certain lands were burdened with rents of loads of salt, but these and a rabbit warren were released in exchange for land in 1663. (fn. 20) The remains of the saltworks were still to be seen in the early 19th century. At that date some of the inhabitants of the parish found profitable employment in the cockle beds in the mouth of the Tees.
The common fields of Greatham were inclosed in 1650. (fn. 21)
The manor of GREATHAM belonged to the barony of the Bertrams of Mitford, Northumberland, (fn. 22) and holders of Stainton in the Street (q.v.). William Bertram in 1196 paid 32s. for the tallage of Greatham. (fn. 23) His son and heir Roger held the vill between 1208 and 1217 as of his barony and died in 1242. (fn. 24) His son Roger (fn. 25) was a minor in the custody of the Crown in 1246, when the king presented to Greatham Church in his right. (fn. 26) This Roger was a member of the Baronial party and in close sympathy with Peter de Montfort, one of the most prominent leaders of the movement. (fn. 27) In 1263 Roger agreed to give Agnes, his eldest daughter, in marriage to one of Peter's sons, and certain settlements were made of lands in Northumberland. (fn. 28) It seems probable that Greatham was included in these conveyances, for Greatham was forfeited to the Crown after the Battle of Evesham in August 1265, when the elder Peter de Montfort was killed, and Peter his son was wounded and captured. (fn. 29) Peter gave his Rutlandshire manor of Cottesmore as ransom to Thomas de Clare, and Thomas further obtained from the Crown a grant of the manor of Greatham. (fn. 30) Robert Stichill, then Bishop of Durham, disputed the right of the Crown to this escheat, and the king thereupon revoked the grant of the manor which he had made to Thomas de Clare, and resigned it absolutely to the Bishop. (fn. 31) The case of Greatham was accordingly quoted in all disputes concerning the bishop's regal rights in the County Palatine. (fn. 32)
Stichill strengthened his title to the manor by obtaining a release from his 'special friend' Peter son of Sir Peter de Montfort, (fn. 33) and another, apparently from Roger Bertram. (fn. 34) He then assigned it to a hospital dedicated to St. Mary and St. Cuthbert, which he established at Greatham in 1272. (fn. 35) With the manor he granted to the master and brethren of the hospital the privileges of exemption from scot, toll, tallage, and geld in markets and fairs, and suit of wapentakes throughout the bishopric. They were to be free from all amercements before the bishop's justices, saving only to the bishop his justice of life and limb. (fn. 36) Anthony Bek (1284–1311) added a grant of free warren. (fn. 37)
The manor was regranted to the hospital in the charter of James I, (fn. 38) and has remained the chief part of its endowment.
Certain tenements in Greatham, held of the master of the hospital, (fn. 39) belonged in 1389 to the Fulthorp family, (fn. 40) and followed during the 15th and 16th centuries the descent of their manor of Tunstall (fn. 41) (q.v.).
The vill of CLAXTON (Clacstona, xi cent.) was among those quitclaimed by Robert Earl of Northumberland to William de St. Calais, Bishop of Durham (1081–9). (fn. 42) It is next mentioned about 1183, when Walter de Buggethorpe held the vill of Twizel in exchange for one moiety of the vill of Claxton. (fn. 43) Evidently the bishop granted it out in the late 12th century in two moieties. One was held of him directly by the family of Heriz; the other was held by the same family, with mesne lordships intervening. The second belonged in the early 13th century to Walter de Musters, of whom it was held by Leo de Heriz and Gregory de Levingthorp. Walter's son William was the chief lord of the fee about 1241–9. (fn. 44) A mesne lordship was held at that date by John de Romsey, to whom Walter de Musters seems to have granted the services of the tenants in demesne. (fn. 45) This lordship and rent John de Romsey granted to the hospital of St. Giles, Kepier, (fn. 46) and the descendants of Leo de Heriz paid the rent to the hospital in 1380. (fn. 47)
The first member of the family of Heriz to hold land here seems to have been Henry. William de Heriz granted 2 oxgangs of land in Claxton, which had belonged to Henry de Heriz, to St. Giles Hospital in the late 12th or early 13th century. (fn. 48) Leo son of William de Heriz was a contemporary of Walter de Musters, (fn. 49) and was probably the Leo who was sheriff of Durham under Bishop Philip (1197–1208) and mentioned as a tenant in the bishopric in 1211. (fn. 50) He must also be identified with the Leo de Heriz who assigned to the Prior of Durham 2 oxgangs as the endowment of a chapel at Claxton. A later prior released them to his grandson Leo in 1233–44. (fn. 51) The latter was called Leo de Claxton, (fn. 52) and was probably succeeded by the Sir William de Heriz who lived at Claxton in 1264. (fn. 53) Roger de Claxton occurs as lord of Claxton in 1272, (fn. 54) and was succeeded before 1310 by another Roger, (fn. 55) who was summoned in 1312 to appear before the bishop with his sons Leo, John, Michael, William and Robert. (fn. 56) Leo, his heir, granted Adam Bedell 4 oxgangs in Claxton in 1335. (fn. 57) In 1349 he had licence to grant all his lands in Durham to his son William (fn. 58) and Joan de Neville (fn. 59) his wife and the issue of William. (fn. 60) Leo was dead in the next year, when four messuages and a croft called the Ladygarth were assigned to his widow Alice as her dower. (fn. 61) William Claxton married as his second wife Isabel, daughter and heir of William Menevill and lady of Horden (fn. 62) (q.v). He seems to have been lying ill at Bordeaux in October 1379 when he bequeathed 18 marks for three years to an Augustinian William de Bridlington for prayers for the benefit of his soul; (fn. 63) he died in or before 1380. (fn. 64) Isabel retained a life interest by a settlement, and survived her husband forty years; (fn. 65) their son William Claxton then succeeded. (fn. 66) He died in 1431, his son Robert being his heir. (fn. 67) A settlement of the manor on Robert and Ann his wife was made in 1442. (fn. 68) He lived till about 1483, (fn. 69) and left four daughters and co-heirs: Margaret wife of Sir William Embleton, Joan wife of John Cartington, Elizabeth wife of Richard Conyers, and Felicia wife of Ralph Widdrington. (fn. 70) By a partition of his property Sir William Embleton and Margaret came into possession of Claxton, which followed the descent of William's manors of Embleton and Twisdale into the hands of Bertram Bulmer. (fn. 71) Bertram Bulmer with Isabel his wife and William Bulmer his son conveyed half the manor and lands here to Sir Thomas Riddell in 1626 and in the same year they leased a cottage and some 80 acres of land to Richard and Robert Johnson for 100 years. (fn. 72) In 1631 Bertram alienated the manor to Richard Johnson the elder, licence for the alienation of one half of the manor being obtained from the Bishop in 1632. (fn. 73) It was never again held as a whole by any lord. The Johnson family retained their interest, but nothing is known of their pedigree. In 1684 George Johnson, Matthew Johnson, William Johnson, Robert Johnson, and another William were freeholders. (fn. 74) Robert Gibson, another freeholder of that date, was probably the heir of Anthony and William Gibson to whom William Gibson, senior, granted land here in 1638. (fn. 75) In 1740 William and Anthony Gibson conveyed half of a messuage, 40 acres of arable, 40 of meadow, and 30 of pasture to Ralph Ward. He, with Isabel his wife and Anthony his son and heir, conveyed two messuages and land here to George Johnson in February 1691–2. (fn. 76) This may, however, have been for the purposes of a trust, for in 1751 William Stratforth and Elizabeth his wife conveyed two messuages and 300 acres here to William Graham. (fn. 77) At the beginning of the 19th century William Byers had an estate. (fn. 78) The principal landowners at the present day are J. Holborn, W. Robinson, Robert Henry Dryden and Joseph Atkinson.
The land of Kepier Hospital in Claxton followed the descent of the manor of Kepier into the possession of the family of Heath. (fn. 79)
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST consists of a chancel 27 ft. 9 in. by 17 ft. 4 in., with north organ-chamber and south vestry, clearstoried nave of five bays 56 ft. by 20 ft., north and south aisles 7 ft. 6 in. wide, north porch, and west tower 12 ft. square, all these measurements being internal.
With the exception of the nave arcades the present structure is entirely modern, the old church having been taken down and rebuilt in 1792–3, (fn. 80) when a tower was added at the west end. Hutchinson, writing a few years before the rebuilding, describes the structure of his time as consisting of a nave with north and south aisles, arcades of three pillars supporting light pointed arches, and a chancel opening under a wide round arch springing from hexagonal pilasters. (fn. 81) The 18th-century church was largely built with the old materials and its cost partly borne by the proceeds of the sale of the lead of the old roof. (fn. 82) The lower part of the nave walls may be ancient. There was a gallery at the west end supported by iron pillars. In 1855 the church was considerably altered, the nave being extended eastward a bay, necessitating the destruction of the chancel arch, and a new chancel erected. The clearstory was added in 1869 and the organ-chamber and vestry in 1881. In 1908 the west tower was taken down, and a new tower built in the year following.
The structure taken down in 1792, the piers and arches of which remain, dated from about 1180–90, but fragments of earlier work found during the demolition of the 18th-century tower point to there having been an older church on the site. A portion of a pre-Conquest cross-head with interlacing ornament and part of a cross-shaft or grave slab with early Norman carving were embedded in the masonry of the tower. Three others, two of early Norman type and one possibly part of a pre-Conquest cross, were dug up from beneath the foundations of the tower and west wall of the nave. But better evidence of a building is a rough fragment, possibly part of a turned baluster shaft, and in the chancel, supporting a pre-Reformation altar slab of Frosterley marble still in use, are two turned balusters with capital and base, which apparently have been dividing shafts in the window of a late Saxon tower. (fn. 83) Whether these latter shafts belonged to a church at Greatham or were brought from elsewhere is necessarily uncertain, but taken in conjunction with the early fragments discovered in 1908 the evidence seems to point to a pre-Conquest structure on the site, restored or perhaps entirely rebuilt in the early part of the 12th century. During a restoration in 1860 it is stated that 'the foundations of a smaller church were found inside the present shell and the substructure of the old chancel arch could be clearly traced,' (fn. 84) but these remains, if still existing, are no longer visible. Of the later fragments found in 1908 one is a portion of a plain piscina of early Norman type.
The four western bays of the nave arcade belong to the building of c. 1180–90. The arches are pointed and of two orders, but differ in detail. The westernmost piers on either side are octagonal, but the others, including the two new piers at the east end, are circular. On the north side the first, third, and fifth arches from the east are of two plain chamfered orders, but the second and fourth (first and third of the original work) have a double cheveron moulding on the outer order towards the nave, while the inner order has a roll on the angle. Towards the aisle both orders are chamfered. The two original cylindrical piers on the north side have circular necks with octagonal abaci, the second bearing traces of having had volutes at the angles, now cut away. The bases follow the section of the pillars. The octagonal western pier has a moulded octagonal capital and base and the arch springs at the west end from a semi-octagonal fluted corbel. On the south side the arches consist of two plain chamfered orders and the piers follow the design of those opposite. Built into the north wall in 1860 are three 12th-century fragments, one with an indented moulding and the others with star and other diaper patterns.
The tower (fn. 85) is of three stages with embattled parapet and west window of three lights. It contains two bells cast in 1837.
The font is of the same date as the nave arcades and consists of a circular bowl of Frosterley marble, on a shaft and moulded base. (fn. 86) The pulpit and all the fittings are modern.
The plate consists of a chalice and cover paten of 1571, the former with a band of leaf ornament, and the latter with the date inscribed on the button (fn. 87); and a chalice of 1839 inscribed 'In usum Eccles. S[ancti] Johannis Bapt. in Greatham. D. D.—H. B. Tristram olim Vicarius A.D. 1874.' There is also a plated paten and flagon presented in 1842 by the Rev. John Brewster, vicar, and a pewter plate.
The churchyard was enlarged in 1887 by the addition of an acre of land a little way off to the south-east, given by the trustees of the hospital. In the churchyard is a stone cross bearing the names of those from this parish who fell in the Great War.
The church of Greatham, which belonged in 1246 to the heir of Roger Bertram, (fn. 88) was granted with the manor to the hospital of Greatham by Robert Stichill. (fn. 89) His charter gave the master and brethren the right of appropriating the church after the death or resignation of Maurice the clerk, then holding it. (fn. 90) A new licence for appropriation was granted by Anthony Bek (1284–1311), (fn. 91) presumably when the living was vacated by Maurice. The appropriation took place before 1291. (fn. 92) In 1312 the master of the hospital entered a conditional appeal against the claim of some persons unnamed to present a rector to the church of Greatham. (fn. 93) A vicarage was ordained before 1343. (fn. 94) The master and brethren of the hospital have continued to exercise the patronage down to the present day. (fn. 95)
A chapel is attached to the hospital, and the vicar held till 1855 the office of chaplain. Robert Betson, 'parochial chaplain,' is mentioned in a visitation of 1501. (fn. 96) In 1594 the vicar said service at the hospital twice a day and received in return his diet and a yearly sum of £2. (fn. 97) The office of chaplain was abolished in 1855 and a rule was made that masters were to be in holy orders. (fn. 98) They were still permitted to combine the two offices, which are now held separately.
A chapel at Claxton, belonging to the Prior of Durham, was released between 1233 and 1244 to Leo de Claxton for his private use. He was to be at liberty to have divine service celebrated there at his own cost, but was bound to attend the mother church of Billingham on the four principal feast days. (fn. 99) This chapel was still in existence in 1430, (fn. 100) but is not again mentioned. Evidently Claxton belonged originally to the neighbouring parish of Billingham. Like Billingham, it was in the original ward of Stockton, whereas Greatham was part of the wapentake of Sadberge. The date when it was transferred to Greatham parish is not known, but the tithe corn of Claxton belonged to Greatham Hospital in 1594. (fn. 101)
The hospital of God was founded by Robert Stichell, Bishop of Durham, by letters patent bearing date the Sunday before the Epiphany 1272, and is administered by the master and brethren under the provisions of a scheme of the High Court of Chancery of 31 July 1866, and schemes of the Charity Commissioners of 27 April 1883, 1 November 1910, and 18 June 1918. The trust estate consists of the buildings and 1,700 acres orthereabouts, certain reserved rents on unexpired leases, a tithe rentcharge of about £120, the income from real estate amounting to about £5,000, and £1,064 17s. from personal estate, being the dividends on India 3 per cent. stock and consols, 5 per cent. War Stock, and 3½ per cent. Conversion Stock with the official trustees. The scheme directs that there shall be thirteen in-brethren, who shall each receive £12 per annum and clothing, and thirteen out-brethren, who shall each receive £26 per annum, with medical attendance, with provision for the extension of the benefits, when the funds should warrant, to forty brethren. The number of out-brethren at present is twenty-seven. The in-brethren also receive a hot dinner daily, and a daily allowance of milk, bread and butter, fuel and light. A dole of meal is likewise distributed to twenty-six poor persons. A grant of £75 is made annually to the vicar of Greatham, and under an order of the Charity Commissioners of 17 May 1904 a grant not to exceed £80 a year is made yearly to the Greatham Church of England Schools. (fn. 102)
A piece of land containing 3 a. 1 r. in Greatham is vested in the master and brethren of the hospital, by whom it is let on leases for certain lives in trust for the poor. The property known as Poor Folks Cottage Field produces £13 a year, which is applied, 5s. yearly in doles of white bread at Candlemas, and the remainder in sums of 5s. to poor widows at Whitsuntide and Christmas.
In 1669 Dr. Samuel Rand gave £100 by deed for the use of the poor, which was laid out in the purchase of a rent-charge of £6 issuing out of land at Thornton in Yorkshire, which is applied in apprenticing boys and girls. The charge was redeemed in 1919 by the transfer of £240 2½ per cent. consols with the official trustees, producing £6 yearly.
In 1762 Dormer Parkhurst, by deed, founded and endowed almshouses for six almswomen or 'sisters,' being widows or unmarried women of fifty years or upwards. The endowments consist of the almshouse, buildings, and a piece of ground in Greatham, and 16 a. 3 r. at Stockton-on-Tees; £4,853 17s. 7d. consols, arising from sales of land from time to time, and £232 14s. 1d. India 3 per cent. stock, which are held by the official trustees, producing together £145 yearly. The charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners 6 July 1886. Each of the inmates receives £13 16s. yearly, 2s. at Easter and Whitsuntide, and 4s. at Christmas, with allowances for coal, clothing and medical attendance.
In 1819 Matthew Carr, by his will proved at York, bequeathed £100, the interest to be distributed among the poor at Christmas. The legacy is represented by £104 19s. 6d. consols, with the official trustees. The annual dividends, amounting to £2 12s. 4d., are distributed among poor widows and single women in sums varying from 2s. 6d. to 5s. each.
In 1916 Maud Appleby, by will proved 10 February, gave £2,000 6 per cent. Exchequer Bonds, one half of the income therefrom to be applied to the upkeep of the churchyard and cemetery and the remaining half to the deserving poor. The endowment now consists of £2,105 5s. 5 per cent. War Stock with the official trustees, producing £105 5s. 2d. yearly. In 1926 £27 3s. was distributed in money grants and £33 8s. in relief in kind.