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AYCLIFFE Parish and Village

Great Aycliffe was once part of a vast forest of oak trees bearing the name Auckland or Oakland . Throughout this area there were many clearings and small settlements, one of them being Aclea or Acle - Saxon meaning ‘clearing in the oak trees’ (cliff - Saxon meaning ‘a rock or headland’). Over the centuries the early forest tribes, the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans cut the trees down for use as fuel, bridge/road building, repairs and later for ship-building.

By 1606 King James I was accusing the Dean and Chapter of having spoiled and wasted the ‘old oak-wood of Aycliffe’ (Surtees, 1823). ‘Acts of Parliament in 1640 abolished all Palatinate privileges, committees were set up in 1643 to seize the property of delinquents and, with the proceeds, pay for the Scottish occupation. Much timber had to be felled to pay the heavy fines’ ( Eden , 195?). An entry in the Sequestrators’ Books, 11 September 1644, reveals ‘a Warrant from the Committee of Sequestration to the Keepers of Aycliff - wood, to deliver to the Greeve of Billingham, four waine loads of wood, wh[ich] was cut down for the use of Captaine Gascoigne Eden, to be by them employed in the necessary repaire of certaine bridges and highwaies now in decay’ (Surtees, 1823).

By the middle of the seventeenth century the great forest of Auckland was razed to the ground. The parish may have been part of a royal estate, since King Alfred granted all the country between the Rivers Wear and Tees to become part of the See of Lindisfarne. Great Aycliffe and School Aycliffe were mortgaged to the Earls of Northumberland by Bishop Aldhune to pay the expenses of wars being waged during these times. Symeon writes that Great Aycliffe was restored to the church when King Canute made his bare-foot pilgrimage from Trimdon to the shrine of St. Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral, butat a later date the Church registers record that ‘Scot, the son of Elstane or Alstane gave Aycliffe to St. Cuthbert’ (Surtees, 1823). In 1082 Bishop William de Carileph granted the church and tithes to the Convent of Durham (assigned to the 3rd stall in Durham Cathedral, while Preston , Ketton and Ricknall go to the 8th stall).

The monks of Durham were licensed by Bishops Hatfield, Fordham and Dudley in 1379, 1388 and 1484 respectively to acquire land in the parish, resulting in there being little freehold estate left in Aycliffe. Up to the nineteenth century the Dean and Chapter were Lords of the Manor and owned nearly all the land in the village. Well known families, who have held land in the parish, are the Bulmers of Tursdale (who granted all their land including the quarries in 1622 to John Atkinson of Aycliffe), the Claxtons of Olde-Park (held 60 acres called Le Croceflatt, near the church), the Conyers of Sockburn, the Amundevilles of Coatham Mundeville and the Earls of Eldon.

Up to the nineteenth century the parish boundaries ‘were substantially as those in 1200’ ( Wilson , 1927. p.141) and stretched from ‘Haughton le Skerne on the south, by Great Stainton and Sedgefield on the east, by Bishop Middleham and Merrington on the north and by Heighington on the west. It is divided into four townships or constabuleries: - i. Aycliffe, which includes Heworth. ii. Brafferton, which includes Ketton and Newton-Ketton. iii. Preston-le-Skerne, which includes Grindon and Howhills. iv. Woodham, which includes Nun-Stainton, Copelaw and Ricknall’. (McKenzie & Ross, 1834).

In Saxon times the village was known as Aclea or Acle, but over a thousand years or more the changes in the spelling of the modern name of Aycliffe add up to over 40 variations. Aclea appears in Saxon charters describing 2 synods which were held in the village - ‘782. In this year Werburh, Coelred’s queen, and Cynewulf, Bishop of Lindisfarne, died. And there was a synod at Aclea’. A second synod was held in 788/9. There is much controversy as to whether they were held in Aycliffe, Co. Durham or Oakley in Essex / Surrey .


VARIATIONS IN THE SPELLING OF THE PLACE NOW CALLED AYCLIFFE

ACCLE

?

 

ACCLEY

1541.

‘Tythes of wheat and cod (sic) in Accley, Brafferton, and Preston were granted to the Dean and Chapter of Durham’. ( Wilson , 1927. p.64)

ACCLIFF[E]

1541.

‘...the manor of Accliff, the Rectory of Accliff....’( Wilson , p.64)

ACHELIA

1130

( Jackson , 1916)

ACHLYFF

1367.

( Jackson )

ACKELEY .

c.1311

‘John de Ackeley, Rector of Great Stainton......’ ( Wilson , p.18)

ACKELIFFE

1642.

‘The petition of the parishioners of Ackeliffe.....’ (Wilson, p. 323)

ACLAE

?

(Hodgson, 1870)

ACLAI

1211.

( Jackson )

ACLAY

1569.

‘During the Northern Rebellion, the Earl of Surrey rested with his army at Aclay....’ (Ekwall, 1966 )

ACLE

789.

‘Synod of Acle’. ( Wilson p.4)

 

1085.

Aldredus, Preost de Acle }

 

c.1095.

Thoma, Clericus de Acle } Incumbents’ list

 

1212.

Thomas, Persona de Acle }

 

c.1226.

Dm. Johannis, Vicarius de Acle }

ACLEA

c.1085.

(Ekwall)

 

782, 789.

Synods of Aclea. (Mawer, 1920)

AC-LEAH

Saxon.

‘Clearing in the oak trees’. (Robinson, 1998)

ACLECH

789.

1160.

Synod of Aclech. ( Wilson , p.4)

(Mawer)

ACLEIA

1195.

1335.

(Ekwall)

(Mawer)

ACLET

c.995.

‘The two Aycliffes (Aclet duo) were amongst the villages which Bp. Aldune mortgaged or pledged.....to the Earl of N’land’ (Surtees,1823)

ACLEY

1378.

‘and take hares in the field of Acley’. ( Wilson , p.38)

 

1349.

Heronceaus, Prior de Acley. (Incumbents’ list).

ACLIF

1418.

‘In settlement with a certain doctor for treatment to the eyes of Dm. John Aclif.’ ( Wilson , p.46)

ACLIFFE

c.1645.

‘The Vicaridge of Acliffe’. ( Wilson , p.88)

ACLYFF

c.1380

.‘ Durham College , Oxford . Priors etc. - John Aclyff (de Acley) ( Wilson , p.41)

ACLYFFE

c.1550.

‘Aclyffe, two belles in the stepell....’ (Surtees Soc.,1896)

AICKLIFFE

1613.

‘Robert Throgmorton, Vickar of Aickliffe.’ ( Wilson , p.70)

AICLIFFE

1638.

‘Thomae Carr. Vicarii de Aicliffe’. ( Wilson , p.164)

AIEKCLIFFE

c.1661.

‘for Aiekcliffe Tythe paid to the Prebendary...’ ( Wilson , p.66)

AKCLYFF

1402.

(Mawer)


AKELAI/EI

1311/12.

‘Johannes de Akelai, rector de Staynton...’ ( Wilson , p.308)

AKELEY

1341.

‘William Spiny de Akeley...’ ( Wilson , p.119)

AKELYFF

1402.

‘Henry de Akelyff.’ ( Wilson , p.119)

AKLEE

1344.

Peter de Aklee. ( Wilson , p.119)

AKLEY

c.1291.

‘Walterus, Vicarius de Akley.’ ( Wilson , p.32)

AKLIF

c.1400.

‘John of Aklif, Prior of ye Howse of Coldyngham.’ ( Wilson , p.44)

AKLYFF

1391.

(Mawer)

AKWCLIF

1346.

‘Richard Sperman. Christmas 1335 - Akwclif priest.’( Wilson , p.119)

ARCLIF

1569.

‘Lord Sussex writes to Privy Seal from Arclif, between Darneton and Duresme’. ( Wilson p.110)

AYCKLIFFE

1619.

‘Raphe Richardson, Vicar ... Vicarage of Ayckliffe. ( Wilson , p.73)

AYCLEY

?

 

AYCLIFF

1381.

(Patent Rolls)

AYCLIFFE

1508.

(and present day spelling) ‘held by the late Wm. Browne, clerk, Vicar of Aycliffe.’ ( Wilson , p.49)

AYKELIFFE

1569.

(Sharp)

AYKELYF(F)

[1545.]

‘The Guylde of Saincte Katerine in the Parish Church of Aykelyf.’ ( Wilson , p.62)

AYKLEY

?

(Fordyce, 1850 )

AYKLIFF

c.1550.

‘The Guylde of Our Ladye within the saide Church of Aykliff .’ (Wilson, p. 61)

HACLE

?

( Jackson )

OCLEY

1381

Bp. Hatfield’s Survey. ‘Vill of Rykenhall - William Tedy of Ocley (Acley) holds all the aforesaid Vill.....’ ( Wilson , p.174)

YACKLEY/YACLEY/JACKLI

19?-

Still in use by local people. (Mawer)

YAKELY

1680

(Mawer)

YAK-TREE

-

‘Oak tree, Aycliffe where grew the great oak forest is known as Yakley in the local dialect.’ ( Eden , 195? Vol.2)

 The village, five miles north of Darlington , is pleasantly situated on grassy banks, west of the River Skerne which powered the paper and corn mills up to the nineteenth century. The road, which climbs up from the river, widens into a spacious and attractive green. John Wesley preached here in the 1770s, making a second visit whilst travelling from Newcastle to Darlington on 1st June 1780 (Coronation Souvenir Handbook, 1953). A few years later he writes in his journal; ‘About ten I preached at Aycliffe...all the inhabitants whereof seem now as full of goodwill, as they were once of prejudice’ ( Wilson , 1927. p.106). ‘Cottage’ meetings followed on from these visits until 1829 when a large barn was furnished to accommodate 40 people and later became a chapel for 200 worshippers. In 1870 the Primitive Methodists held ‘cottage’ meetings until 1887 when they built a modern chapel.

Eventually the two societies joined together in 1930 as the Methodist Union and used the 1887 building for services’ (Coronation Souvenir Handbook). The large variety of houses surrounding the green (‘its chief remaining claim to the title of village’ - Mee, 1953) would have housed the workers and tradesmen living in the village.

 
 
 
 
 
 

The village is surrounded by many farms, quarries or marle pits as they were known in the Middle Ages, lime kilns and a lone windmill (which still survives) .The village, having grown from a population of 200 - 250 people (90 households) in 1563 to 1,314 in the 1950’s, now extends along the old Great North Road ( London to Edinburgh ) which still curves through the village.

 
 

Aycliffe O.S. Map, 1939

*    "Reproduced from 1939 Ordnance
Survey map with the kind permission of the Ordnance Survey"

 
 

Because of this great thoroughfare stretching between the capitals of England and Scotland, the village would have witnessed Scottish border raids, armies marching north and south during the Northern Rebellion of 1569 (when ‘21 Aykecliffe men joined and 3 were executed’ - Sharp, 1840), the Civil War of the 1640’s and the subsequent desecration of churches by ‘Roundheads’, also the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

By 1934 the Great North Road was becoming unsuitable for the ever increasing flow of heavy traffic and a bypass (later the A167) was built along the western edge of the village boundary. (O.S. Map 1939).

Quieter times have now descended on the village, although the two world wars took their toll of the menfolk as can be seen from the stone war memorial, for both wars, in St. Andrew’s churchyard. (Please see separate heading on the website). During the twentieth century events taking place were the annual garden fetes noted in the church accounts from 1926 - 1951 (1950 was an excellent year, totalling £84.16s. 4d.).

A pageant was organised in 1934 with displays of dancing and costumes, followed 40 years later by an historical exhibition in December 1973. (P.C.C. Minutes for ‘15 January 1974. Historical exhibition was successful’).

Coronation year in 1953 was a time of great rejoicing when the village teamed up with Newton Aycliffe to produce a ‘Souvenir Handbook’ outlining their histories and a programme of church services, parades, sports, teas, dancing, concerts, bonfires, fireworks and whist drives, stretching from Sunday 31 May to Saturday 6 June. A Flower Festival took place in 1982 to celebrate 1200 years of village and church history. Minutes for 13 September 1982 record that ‘75 St. Andrew’s mugs ready for sale’ and Accounts itemise ‘Sale of St. Andrew’s mugs, £98.’ Refreshments at all these events would have been provided by the three women’s organisations which met in the village - The W.I., Mothers’ Union and the Women’s Fellowship, all now sadly closed down.

All the above was extracted from the book: SALTIRE , St. Andrews Aycliffe, Locality, Treasures, Incumbents, Records, Exterior - A Short History by Valerie Brown.

 We thank her for permission to use this extract.

David Lewis. Aycliffe Village Local History Society.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ARCHITECTURAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF DURHAM &

NORTHUMBERLAND. Transactions.

Vol. 3. pp. 49-74. 1870. HODGSON, Rev. J.F. Aycliffe church [and] Supplement. 1890.

CORONATION SOUVENIR HANDBOOK: Great Aycliffe. 1953.

EDEN, T. Durham . Vols. 1, 2. 195?

EKWALL, E. Concise dictionary of place-names. 1966

FORDYCE, W. History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham . Vol. 1. 1850.

HODGSON, Rev. J.F. See ARCHITECTURAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND. Vols. 3 and 6.

JACKSON, Rev. C.E. Place-names of Durham . 1916.

McKENZIE, E. & M. ROSS. Historical, topographical view of the County Palatine of Durham . Vol. 2. 1834.

MAWER, A.W. Place-names of Northumberland and Durham . 1920.

MEE, A. Durham. 1953.

SHARP, C. Editor. The Rising in the North - the 1569 Rebellion. 1840 (Reprinted 1975).

SURTEES, R. History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham . Vol. 3. 1823.

SURTEES SOCIETY. Vol. 97. 1896.

WILSON, L. Annals of Aycliffe. 1927.