A History Run – Part One

Peter Bell

Last Easter I researched and ran a route that I was going to lead looking at some of the historical facts that pack Durham. Clearly this is now not possible so instead I’m planning to deliver it as a kind of blog with pictures of me with my trusty companion. I hope you find it interesting over the future weeks apart. I hope you can find time to run it on your own. I’m currently running it in stages.

Peter and Cookie

So here goes.


An approx 8.5 mile route taking in the history and connections between Durham then and now of the Arnison centre and Newton Hall. It follows the route of old railway lines, then into Durham where we visit the Kepier Leprosy Hospital associated with St Giles Church in Giles Gate. Crossing the main road into Gilesgate to discover the history of the DLI Victoria Cross heroes and into Durham to the Cathedral and castle to look at the rarer stories associated with palace green. Returning through Flass vale and its gory secret. To return to Framwellgate moor and its mining heritage on route to discover the naming of ‘pity me’ whilst returning to the Arnison centre.


Newton is first mentioned in the Boldon Book of 1183. This was Durham’s equivalent of the Domesday Book and it records that Newton was a farmhouse or settlement belonging to William, a former abbot of Peterborough.

It became Newton Hall in the 18th Century when a Georgian mansion was built in 1730 for Sir Henry Liddell, Lord Ravensworth. His successor, Thomas, sold the house in 1812 to William Russell, the son of a Sunderland banker and the richest commoner in England. He owned Brancepeth Castle and was also a coal owner. By the 1830s Newton Hall had passed to the Spearman family and in the 1880s belonged to the Maynards, a Yorkshire family who made their fortune from ironstone mining. The Maynards virtually owned the town of Skinningrove on the east Cleveland coast. In the later part of the 19th Century, Newton Hall ceased to be a private residence and was taken over as a branch of County Durham’s hospital for mentally ill patients, based in Sedgefield.The fate of the hall in the early part of the last century was similar to that of many historic houses. It was used as a barracks during the First World War and then fell into disrepair.

Newton Hall Circa WW1

The hall was knocked down in 1926 and a tragic incident occurred during its demolition when a joist thrown by a workman accidentally killed 14-year-old John Arnison. He had left school only three days earlier and his first job was cleaning the bricks removed from the hall for recycling.

In 1988, the teenager was immortalised in the name of a neighbouring retail development – the Arnison Centre. His name was chosen as the result of a competition to name the site.

The main body of Newton Hall was located about where Brancepeth Close stands today, although the hall and its walled gardens covered a wider area.

A tower-shaped gazebo was on the edge of the gardens, where Eggleston Close is today.

A driveway linked the hall to Framwellgate and Durham to the west and more or less followed the course of Carr House Drive, the present estate’s principal road.

A major stimulus for the growth of the estate was the relocation of the Post Office Savings Certificate Office to Durham from London.

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