The Weardale Chest, image 1
Weardale Chest: © Weardale Museum.

The Weardale Chest, image 2
Longlee Farm Original Lease: © Andrew Trotter

 

The Weardale Chest, image 3
 Sir Arthur Hesilrige by unknown artist c1650, NPG6440, copyright National Portrait Gallery, London

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Warden Hill Farm, Westgate
Current Location: Durham University Library, Special Collections
Theme: Cultural/Social
Period: Medieval/Post-medieval
Date: c.1579-1660 and earlier documents from c.1377+

What is it?
The Weardale Chest is an ancient chest used to store legal documents relating to tenurial customs in the Park and Forest of Weardale.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
Weardale covers a large area of the North Pennines and has been associated with the Bishops of Durham since the 12th century.  Most of the land in Weardale was owned by the Bishops of Durham who used it for hunting, lead mining and farming. Tithes were payable to the Bishop from lead mining activities and he also gained rents from the farms which were tenanted. The documents in the Weardale Chest contain fascinating insights into the land holdings of the Bishop of Durham in The Park and Forest of Weardale.

Why is it important?
It is Important because the documents in the Weardale Chest chronicle the hard fought struggle between Weardale farmers and Sir Arthur Hesilrige. A radical opponent of Charles I Sir Arthur distinguished himself as a soldier fighting for parliament during the English Civil War. He was appointed governor of Newcastle in 1647, dominating the North East during the 1650s and accumulating a personal fortune by purchasing estates sequestered from local royalists and the Bishop of Durham.

These included the Manor of Wolsingham where he attempted to alter the customary rights that previous tenants had held under the Bishop of Durham. The Weardale Chest contains evidence of law suits concerning tenants’ rights between tenants of Weardale and Sir Arthur. The chest also contains 16th and 17th century copies of earlier documents from 1377 onwards. These include leases, conveyances, agreements and Forest Court papers.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • J. Linda Drury Sir Arthur Hesilrige and The Weardale Chest, 1980: Transactions of the Architectural and Archealogical Society of Durham and Northumberland n.s. 5.
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Christopher Durston, Sir Arthur Hesilrige.
  • Hardie C.  Hammond N. 2007  The Archaeology and Architecture of Weardale ,The Weardale Society

  • External Links:
  • Durham University Library, Special Collections
    https://www.dur.ac.uk/library/asc



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