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Killingworth ancient history

Although the town of Killingworth – just north of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne – did not come into existence until the latter half of the 20th century, the land that it stands on and the surrounding areas are steeped in history dating back to medieval times. During that time, land within the township has been held and tenanted by many individuals and institutions, but mostly by the Killingworth family from whom the original village and subsequent township were named. Evidence of early settlers in the area can be traced back to the 13th Century, however it is likely that humans inhabited the area for centuries prior to that but its geological history of mining, spoil heaps and landscaping meant that little was left prior to 1242.

killingworth-history-2During this period, the land was held by Roger de Merlay III (according to records from that time) and over the following 60 year period registered tax payers living there numbered between 8 and 16 however in the late 14th century it was divided into holdings for over twenty tenants. These parcels of lands were farmed in strips scattered among the fields and used for early agricultural activity by the landholders with the tenements rented from the Killingworth family until the last male heirs died in the early 1700’s when the surviving sisters inherited the land. Eventually, around 1737 all the lands including that on which Killingworth Hall (the original family home) stood, were sold to John Williams and it was his son who re-built this property after his father’s death in 1763. However, the son then sold the entire Killingworth estate, both land and property covering around 500acres, to George Colpitts just a few years later who in turn bequeathed it all to Elizabeth Utrick, his niece and heiress. Towards the end of the 18th century, the common land associated with the estate were decreed to be enclosed by a parliamentary act passed in 1793, a law which restricted traditional rights such as mowing or grazing in these areas that were formally part of an open field system. This meant that use of the land was determined entirely by the owner and this process – that was introduced across the whole of England – brought an end to ancient, agricultural systems like arable farming. Some of this enclosed land would become individual farms adjoining the village of Killingworth with one even surviving right up to the 1960’s, while some remained as common land including 1,800 acres that formed Killingworth Moor.

The Utrick family and their descendants remained the main landholders and lived in the hall until well into the 19th century during which the area – that is now the township – integrated within Longbenton Parish, part of the Barony of Merlay that goes back to the medieval era. By the 20th century there was little left of the land that had been desolated by mining activity in the area, other than its disused colliery and the small community of Killingworth Village until the township was developed in this area in1963.

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