Helmington Hall
Helmington Hall, Hunwick

Hunwick History

There is a possibility that some form of settlement existed during Roman times on this site as the main road through Hunwick follows the path of the Roman road 'Dere Street' on it's way north from Binchester (Vinovium) Roman fort in Bishop Auckland.

According to a new book by Icelandic historians Stefan Bjornsson and Bjorn Vernhardsson, Hunwick could be the site of the little known Battle of Brunanburgh. They claim that the account of the battle in Egil's Saga (family saga of Egil Skallagrimsson, Icelandic farmer and Viking) fits perfectly with the area around the recreation ground in Hunwick, the site of the old West Hunwick Colliery and pipe works.

The battle took place in 937 between King Ethelstan of England and an alliance of Olaf Guthfrithson, Constantine and Owen, kings of Dublin, Alba and Strathclyde, one of the most significant in English history is often attributed to as the origin of English nationalism.

The earliest village on this site was probably destroyed during the 'Harrying of the North' by the Normans in the late 11th century, and rebuilt in the form of two rows of houses around the village green.

The name Hunwick probably derived from the Danish family of Hunas. The database of English Place names describes Hunwick as being 'Huna's specialised farm'.

The earliest record of Hunwick is in 1183AD in the 'Bolden Book' by Bishop Aldune which shows the land as being rented by the Binchester family. Hunwick was later given to the Earls of Northumberland, but it returned to the ownership of the church when Henry VIII re-founded Durham cathedral in 1541.

Hunwick had been a moor until 1761 when it was enclosed and land allotted to various families, further divided in 1806 it is most likely that most of these old field boundary's still exist.

The Pearson & White trade directory for 1828 lists the following:

William Dixon corn miller Furnace Mill
Thomas Graham brewer Quarry Burn
Lambton Longstaff tailor
Joseph Robson stone mason
Rev Robert Spencer Helmington hall
Joseph Turnbull blacksmith
Nicholas Welsh victualler Two Hunters
Avery Robinson Wilson cartwright & FARMERS
Ralph Beck Quarry burn MU
Thos Blackmore yeoman Trindle
Thomas Brass Roughlee
John Emmerson Hunwick hall
John Etherington Gate close
John Fletcher
John Hewitt yeoman
Thomas Lax Constantine hill
Hannah Liddle Trindle dykes
John Stobbs Farnley dykes

In 1851 Hunwick had a population of 486 in 88 houses, This enclosed the old settlements of Hunwick, New Hunwick, Lane Ends, Rough Lea and Quarry Burn.

Hunwick's church, dedicated to St Paul was built in 1844 on a plot of land donated by Mrs Bell at a cost of £700 to a design by Mr Cory of Durham, In 1854 the church was extended to accommodate the choir and 100 children with seating for 160, this also included a stained glass window copied from Salisbury Cathedral donated by Mrs Spencer of Helmington. In 1875 a Primitive Methodist chapel was built at Rough Lea and in 1881 a Wesleyan Chapel was built on West End, Both now private residences.

In the years prior to the 1850's most jobs would have been in agriculture, with some quarrying of stone used to build local housing. After 1850 came the industrial revolution, and Hunwick was no exception, between 1854 & 1875 three coal mines were opened employing almost 620 men at their peak. This was helped by the building of the Railway line between Bishop Auckland and Durham in 1857, Hunwick also had a Pipeworks and a brickworks, All of which except the Pipeworks which now produces specialized ceramics for the steel industry, had closed by 1930, this was followed in 1964 by the closing of the railway.

At the turn of the last century, Hunwick boasts a host of small shops and 6 public houses, most of which were in the lane ends area of the village where new terraced housing had been built to accommodate the local miners and their families. Most of these houses and all but one shop and two public houses has now gone, either demolished or changed to other uses.

One of the oldest buildings in Hunwick is Hunwick Hall, a Grade II listed building adjacent to the village green which has been identified as a possible medieval fortified manor house with a private chapel. It is possible that some of the roof timbers were cut between 1501-1526 and was probably built by Richard Hoton (Hutton) around 1511 who's initials appear next to a bay window overlooking the courtyard.

Another house of historical interest in Hunwick is Helmington Hall which stands at the North end of the village and was built in 1686 by Thomas Blackett and was held by William Blackett until 1792 when it was sold to Ralph Spencer. Following Ralph Spencer's death in 1805 his son Robert enlarged the house adding an extra two Gothic style rooms which almost doubled the original size. In 1828 the hall was occupied by Rev. Robert Spencer and later by Margaret Spencer following Robert's death in 1836. In 1895 the hall was partly destroyed by fire where the roof of the 1805 extension was so badly damaged that the whole of the East wing had to be demolished.

The hall has been mostly unoccupied since the fire and was listed in 1952, it is now in the hands of E. Tinkler & Son.