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Nunthorpe History - general


To view a Nunthorpe History Time Line for the 19th and 20th century click here http://www.mynunthorpe.org/nunthorpe-history

Also on this page -

Population of Nunthorpe vs Middlesbrough

Famous People of Nunthorpe

Nuclear bunker in Nunthorpe


The Romans to the Victorians

by Eric Bailey

Whilst Bronze Age remains have been found on Eston Moor and Roseberry Topping and Roman coins at Whorlton, Guisborough, Ormesby and Stainton. Roman pottery at Great Ayton and a Roman helmet, now in the British Museum, at Barnaby Grange between Upsall and Guisborough, little evidence of early occupation of Nunthorpe has been found.

The Reverend Elgee in his "Romans in Cleveland" suggests that the Romans used three roads in the area - Whorlton to Guisborough , Redcar to Catterick and Guisborough to Maltby, the latter passing through Barnaby, Upsall and along Gypsy Lane to Stainton and Maltby where it joined the Redcar to Catterick Road. He says that the Romans used pre-historic trackways which they straightened and paved with the cobble stones and that "traces of such paving are still to be found in Gypsy Lane" (1923).

The name "Torp" by which the settlement was first known comes from either the Anglo-Saxons who conquered the North East of England and established the Kingdom of Deira about A.D. 560 - or from the Danes who landed in A.D. 865 and captured York in A.D. 867.

Torp was still flourishing when the Normans came. The Domesday Book records that Aluret and Magbanet paid tax on nine carucates of land and when King William kept his promise to reward his faithful nobles, he gave six carucates to Robert de Bruis and retained three for himself. It should be explained that a carucate was simply the amount of land which could be cultivated by a plough and its team of beasts in one year. The Domesday Book also records that there was a church at Atun (Gt Ayton) at this time.

The Saxons had divided Yorkshire into Wapentakes. A Wapentake or literally "weapon take" was a meeting at which all able bodied men who could muster some form of weapon came together for a counting of heads by the local Baron who then knew what his 'military' strength was in the event of a disturbance or attack from outside his area.

Each Wapentake took its name from the place where the meetings were held. Langbaurgh Wapentake held its meetings on Langbaurgh Ridge and the northern part of the ridge extends to the south western area of the parish.

The present Langbaurgh Area District Council takes its name from this ancient Wapentake and extends into the parish covering the area east of the railway line.

Peter de Bruis, a descendant of Robert de Bruis, bought the Wapentake in 1207 for 400 marks and a promise of annual rent of 20 Pounds. He granted the Langbaurgh Charter in 1208 which promised that the Freemen of the Wapentake would not, amongst other things, be subject to imprisonment without trial. As a result of the heavy taxes levied by King John, Peter together with other Northern Barons rebelled and raised an army against the King and after six years of fighting the King was forced to sign the Magna Carta, which was based on the Langbaurgh Charter, at Runnymede in 1215.

19th c. historian, Graves, in his "History of Cleveland" suggests that the ancient seal of the Court of Langbaurgh Wapentake, which has now been incorporated in the official badge of the Langbaurgh District Council could be a representation of the Gate of Langbaurgh which stood near the quarry on the Ayton to Guisborough road.

At the beginning of the 12th century the church and chapels of Newton , Nunthorpe and Little Ayton, were granted to Whitby Abbey, though the tithes of the township were paid to it. Each was looked upon as a domestic chapel on the estate of the Lord of the Manor. Many years later in 1585 the patronage of Great Ayton was bought back by the family of Marwood.

In the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), the tenant of Nunthorpe granted two pieces of land and a mill in the area to some Cistercian nuns who had previously settled at Hutton Low Cross near Guisborough. It is thought that the nuns' settlement was either on the site of the present Nunthorpe Grange Farm or in the grounds of Nunthorpe Hall.

The nuns however only stayed at Thorpe for a short time before moving to the more isolated spot of Baysdale above Ingleby Greenhow. But they did retain their Thorpe lands which had been confirmed by Arnold de Percy, and it was then that the place became known as Nunthorpe.

In 1535 following the dissolution, the Nunthorpe lands which belonged to the Basedale Priory fell out of the nun's hands and in 1544 were granted to nobleman Sir Ralph Bulmer junior.

But folk memory at the nuns original presence in the village had lingered on for four centuries. Even as late as 1606 the road that now stretches from Great Ayton to Marton passing through the village was called Nun-House Lane.

The history of Nunthorpe Manor is less clear. Early on in the 14th century it was in the hands of the Greathead family. Robert Greathead paid four shillings' subsidy in 1333 and John Greathead who followed him appointed a chaplain to the manorial chapel in 1358, and was referred to in 1360 as being "of Nunthorpe". The family probably then ran out of male heirs because in 1435 the manor passed to the Headlam family.

John Headlam left the manor to his son Christopher in 1461, with 6s 8d for the bridge between Nunthorpe and Ayton. But a family feud began with the claim that Christopher was the "supposed base son" of John Headlam and relatives acting on this supposition claimed the manor, contending that the conveyance allowing the manor to pass from John to Christopher was forged. But it seems their claim was unsuccessful, for Christopher's son, Ralph Headlam, died while in possession of the manor in 1544.

Ralph's son and heir William was a one year old baby at the time of his father's death, but received the livery of the manor 20 years later. He died only one year after receiving the livery, leaving the Nunthorpe manor house to his stepfather, Thomas Fulthorpe, who paid subsidy in 1568.

William however did have an heir - a daughter Joan - she was an infant at the time of her father's death, but later became the wife of Ralph Bowes. She and her husband gave the manor to Edward Rust of the Court of Chancery in 1600. In 1613 there was another change of hands when the manor was granted by William Willoughby to Marmaduke Constable and his heirs.

The first Nunthorpe Hall seems to have been built by the Constable's about the time of Charles 1. Then began an unsettled period for the village, for in 1623 Marmaduke Constable was sued for non-payment of tithes by the Rector of Great Ayton and accused of pulling down the Nunthorpe Chapel and terrorising the villagers into attending services in his own residence, Nunthorpe Hall. Fortunately for him various witnesses at the hearing testified that Marmaduke only pulled down part of of the chapel and repaired it so that it was in a better state than before.

Marmaduke was not the only one in trouble, for about the same time, Jane Philips, a maid serving at the Hall was found guilty of stealing among other things butter, a linen coat, a child's shirt and another shirt from her employer. She was sentenced to be whipped at Thirsk and to be taken to Stokesley to sit in the stocks. However, the court mercifully agreed that if Jane made public admission of her guilt at Stokesley market she would be released without further punishment.

Marmaduke Constable died in 1624. He was succeeded by his son and heir John Constable but he died childless in 1629. The Hall then passed to his sister, Anne, wife of James Bradshaw, and Elizabeth Constable. The lands were split up, with Anne taking the slice which included the manor house.

In 1717 it was recorded that part of the Hall was leased out to a farmer, as there was evidently no other place for him and his family to reside.

Nunthorpe remained in the hands of the Peirson family until 1799 when it was sold to Thomas Simpson who was Lord of the Manor until his death in 1848. During his lifetime Thomas managed to rebuild the Hall in 1801 thereafter naming it Nunthorpe Hall, and the Chapel adjacent to it in 1824. The Chapel, which is still in occasional use today was built in the Gothic style with a nave and a turret at the west end containing a single bell.

June 1976.


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Population of Middlesbrough vs Nunthorpe

A comparison between the population of Nunthorpe and the growing population of Middlesbrough from 1801 to 1911.

  Nunthorpe Middlesbrough
1801 132 25
1811 128 35
1821 110 40
1831 125 154
1841 137 5,463
1851 126 7,600
1861 160 18,714
1871 195 28,854
1881 165 36.631
1891 135 49,611
1900 198 91,302
1911 289 104,767


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Famous People of Nunthorpe

by Lesley Tomlinson


Sir Arthur Dorman

Thomas Simpson

Isaac Wilson

William Innes Hopkins

Marion Coates Hansen (Suffragette)

Sir John Harrison and Lady Kathleen Harrison

Queenie Ward (Local Historian)

Jack Brunton

Mr and Mrs Cochrane (Local Benefactors)

Nunthorpe's Ghosts


Sir Arthur Dorman

Sir Arthur Dorman and his family lived at Grey Towers from 1895 until his death in 1931. He had a profound effect on the iron and steel industry in Teesside and was co-founder of the famous Dorman Long steel company: the company built both the Transporter and Newport bridges in Middlesbrough and of course the Sidney Harbour Bridge.

Sir Arthur Dorman built the Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough  in memory of his son, George Lockwood Dorman and his men, who fell in the Boer War.

Not only was Sir Arthur Dorman a great industrialist but he was a great benefactor to Nunthorpe. In 1924 he built Nunthorpe's school in Church Lane and the School master's house (now the Vicarage). This school replaced the earlier Village school built by Isaac Wilson. Sir Arthur also gave the land to and was the principal benefactor in building St Mary's Parish Church.

Before the First World War Sir Arthur Dorman built houses for his workforce around Nunthorpe Station. These houses were very different to the working class terraces of early Middlesbrough; they were in terraces of six or more, with large rooms and three or four bedrooms and situated in tree lined avenues (see the Schoolboy map of 1916). He also dictated that there would be no shops, no slated roofs and no public houses in Nunthorpe.

Shortly after coming to live at Grey Towers Sir Arthur added in 1896 the entrance gate and lodge to Grey Towers. Sir Arthur was also a keen horticulturist building terraced rock gardens planted with rhododendrons and azaleas. He also had the woodland extended and it boasted an example of every type of tree it was possible to grow in England at that time.

Thomas Simpson

Thomas Simpson lived at Nunthorpe Hall from 1779. He rebuilt the Hall in 1801 and added Nunthorpe Chapel to the Hall in 1824.

Isaac Wilson

After the death of Thomas Simpson  a local Ironmaster, Isaac Wilson, bought and lived in Nunthorpe Hall. Mr. Wilson  formed the Tees Engine Works with Edward Gilkes. He became the first Mayor of Middlesbrough in 1854. He then became the Liberal Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough in 1878.

Mr. Wilson also built and largely maintained the first school in Nunthorpe Village. He died at Nunthorpe Hall in 1899.

William Innes Hopkins

William Innes Hopkins built Grey Towers between 1865 and 1867. He was elected Mayor in both 1867 and 1868. He was General Manager of the iron and steel firm of Hopkins, Gilkes and Co. who built the Tay Bridge, then the longest bridge in Europe and an engineering marvel of the time.  However, in 1879, the Tay Bridge collapsed during a bad storm just as a train was passing over it. The train plunged to the ground killing 75 persons. The structure was deemed faulty and the metal less strong than specified. As General Manager Hopkins took most of the blame and as a result his firm was finished. In 1880, bankrupt and publicly ruined, the Hopkins family left Grey Towers and went to live in Norton, near Malton.

Marian Coates Hansen

Marian Coates Hansen was married to Frederick Hansen and lived at Red Cottage on Guisborough Road from around 1911 until her death in 1929. She was a leading Middlesbrough Councillor, social reformer and involved in housing projects in Middlesbrough.

Nationally she was also involved in campaigning for Votes for Women and was an active suffragette. Marion is said to have influenced George Lansbury (Leader of the Labour Party c1930) in his beliefs on Women and the Vote, she was his agent when he unsuccessfully stood as Parliamentary Candidate for Middlesbrough.

Marion Coates Hansen has been referred to as "an extraordinary feminist whom historians have forgotten".

Sir John Fowler Harrison and Lady Kathleen Harrison

Sir John Harrison was born at Eaglescliffe in 1899. His father, also Sir John Harrison, was created in the Baronetage of U.K. on 15th June 1922 and served as Mayor of Stockton. His father's profession in the 1901 census is down as Printer and Pawn Broker and the family lived in Yarm Road, Stockton.

Sir John and Lady Harrison lived at Red Cottage, Guisborough Road, after the death of Marion Coates Hansen. They were both local benefactors and prominent members of the community.

After the death of Sir John in 1947 Lady Harrison continued to live on in Red Cottage and continued to be involved in local events. Lady Harrison bought and gave the Polo Field to Nunthorpe and the field has become known locally as "Lady Harrison's Field"

Queenie Ward

Ms Ward was born in Saltburn in 1906. Queenie came to Nunthorpe in 1933. She wrote "The Heart of Captain Cook Country" with many references to Nunthorpe. The book was published in 1993.

Jack Brunton

Jack Brunton was born at Marton in 1916. Later he lived at Marton Moor Farm. Nunthorpe and gained a nationwide reputation as a cattle breeder. He kept a prize winning pedigree herd of Ayrshire cattle on his Nunthorpe fields. He organised his men to build the first car park at St. Mary's Church and gave the land on which St. Mary's Church Hall is built on Morton Carr Lane.

Mr and Mrs Gerald Cochrane

Mr and Mrs Cochrane lived at "The Box" on Guisborough Road for over 60 years from c1920. They supported the local community and gave extensively to North Ormesby Hospital.

Nunthorpe's Ghosts

Nunthorpe has two ghosts. One is a lady ghost who goes by the very original name of "The Grey Lady", and is reputed to haunt the Poole Hospital Fishpond Lake as she takes a walk through the woodland and around the lake from the big house (Grey Towers)

The second ghost, a man in railway uniform, walks the platforms of Nunthorpe railway station although there is no history behind his appearances.


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Nuclear fall out shelter at Nunthorpe

Then in 1963 - For many weeks travellers on the Nunthorpe to Stokesley road were puzzled by the activities of building contractors on the roadside near Tree Brigg Farm. Many like me, thought it was the start of yet another petrol station.

It is in fact a thermo-nuclear fall-out shelter and observation post, one of 870 being built throughout the country by the Home Office as part of a strategic defence against all out nuclear attack.
Measuring 18ft x 10ft these bunkers, buried 12 ft underground, are built of reinforced concrete and cost £2000 each. The Home office is also building 17 underground Administrative Regional Government Headquarters from where 150 specially designated staff will co-ordinate services and communications. A further 20 UK Warning and Monitoring Headquarters are also being established throughout the country.

If the Soviet Union decides to launch its nuclear missiles on this part of the country, two part time members of the Royal Observer Corps will entomb themselves in these cold dank chambers, and breathing filtered air, they will use their measuring equipment to relay information to the operations room at Regional Group Headquarters at Durham on the size of the blast, the direction of the atomic cloud and the amount of radiation on the surface.
I was told that the Observers were likely to remain in these shelters for as long as three weeks and to relieve the strain and tedium, the Government in one of its rare light-hearted moments, has kindly agreed to supply a set of dominoes, a pack of playing cards and a dart board, all of which might have been better appreciated had not the shelter’s only illumination been a tiny torch bulb running off a 12-volt battery. As to the sanitary arrangements in these bunkers – well it’s best not to ask.
“Should an attack take place we are in a position to give an overall picture of the amount of radiation in any given part of the country” a Civil Defence spokesman told me. Some hope.
What he failed to explain was if a surprise attack took place, how the part time observers were going to get from their place of work, or homes, to the shelters in time, given that Fylingdales monitoring station near Whitby, offered just five minutes warning of such an attack. Another unanswered question was what would the observers do when they finally surfaced to a bleak uninhabited moonscape.
Other bunkers are to be located at Redcar, Saltburn, Eaglescliffe, Loftus, Hinderwell, Castleton, Osmotherly and Upsall.
Now in 1998 - The Tree Brigg shelter is still by the road side and many others can still be seen around the area. They were de-commissioned in 1992 when then Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke mindful of the thaw in the cold war decided they were no longer necessary. The Regional, and Monitoring Headquarters have been sold off, their powerful aerials being of particular interest to mobile telephone companies and the aircraft industry. But the local bunkers remain, of little use to anyone. The land they occupy was leased to the Government, but these leases have now expired, leaving the landowners with the problem of disposal. They have little practical use apart from storage, and are likely to remain – like the pill boxes of the last war - as symbols of a frightening era.

This article originally appeared in the May 1998 issue of Now & Then Magazine

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