A Brief History of Hett Village

We start with "The Present", which is offered as a "Welcome"  to  new residents in  and visitors to our village and likewise to visitors to our website

Then we move onto contributions received, and the most recent of these comes from Derek Bradley 10/01/18 -  thank you Derek
The Present

Hett Village Hall Association [HVHA] – Welcome Pack for New Residents


Greetings from HVHA and welcome to our village which we trust you will come to enjoy living in and become part of our rural community sufficiently far away from but close enough to the facilities and services which are part of 21st century life concentrated in urban centres.


Our village.


Firstly, a word about  us. Hett is one of Co.Durham’s Green Villages -  a small community of about 250 persons living in 90 + residences built around a central Green complete with pond. It lies some 5 miles S of Durham City. It is now part of the Parish of Croxdale and Hett though it used to be its own parish with a small church still essentially recognisable at the N end of the village. Hett these days is mainly a dormitory, commuter settlement though its origins lie in farming when agriculture required manual labour and the housing stock was either farms or cottages for agricultural workers. As mechanisation gathered pace in the 20th century and the higher wages of the industrial N.E. lured people away some dereliction set in by the 1930. After the 2nd World War Co. Durham Council needed to evaluate its housing stock, much of it old, run down and primitive especially in previously prosperous mining areas where collieries had been worked out or ceased during the Depression of the 1920s-30s.


Hett was classified as a Category C village – not suitable for development -  and apart from the remaining farms it faced demolition. Fortunately, a developer realised latent potential and the village received a new lease of life through the building of the new houses which now form The Green, South Green [1974] and Grove Court [1985]. Subsequent infill in the 1990s and since 2000 complete the quadrilateral formed by East, West and North Streets together with South Green and Grove Court. There remain two working farms with several others in the hinterland – with an emphasis on arable or mixed farming.


The nearest urban centre is Spennymoor some 3 miles SW across the A167 which before the building of the A1M used to be the A1 trunk road from London to Edinburgh. Spennymoor has a limited range of shops + an ASDA supermarket and contains the nearest schools- nursery, primary and secondary. Durham is the nearest “city” and historic as it is and the 8th wonder of the world when seen from a train on the viaduct approaching the station from the S, its wonderful peninsula site restrains what can be fitted in there beyond the Cathedral – completed 1094 and the largest Romanesque building in Europe – and the Castle, which is now a hall of residence for Durham’s prestigious university. Newcastle upon Tyne [no hyphens here] is the regional capital with all the services, shops and entertainments that characterise such metropolii, along with its famously first out-of-town shopping complex of the Metrocentre which is actually in Gateshead [free parking].


In and out of Hett and roundabout:


We have done our best to set out below important aspects of communication. Such a list cannot be exhaustive but we hope it helps you to understand the geography of our part of Durham – its central corridor - with the E. Durham dolomite limestone plateau to its E and the Durham Dales and High Pennines to the W.


Hett lost its twice a day bus service some years ago so there is no public transport though one can use a dial a ride service when available.


 Roads out of Hett are :

·    Hett Lane – “the principal road” going S to the new roundabout on the A167 at the Coach and Horses [gritted in winter] or NW to Sunderland Bridge passing the Cemetery and becoming rather winding [not gritted in winter].


·    Leemans Lane exiting E between Grove Court and East Street - a single track route leading to Falls Farm, Hett Moor and the A688 for the A1M [not gritted in winter].


·   Access to the A1M north is best via the A688 either via Leemans Lane or the Thinford roundabout – N to Newcastle, Berwick and Edinburgh.


·   Access to the A1M south is best via the A167 past Newton Aycliffe until Jct.59.


·   The A688 gives access to E. Durham and the coast or W to Bishop Auckland, Barnard Castle, and the A66 over the Pennines to Penrith or Tebay and the M6.


·   Hett is fortunate in having easy access to the Durham Coastline – now a remarkable stretch of varied cliffed or sandy beaches with protected wildlife and plant areas. This stretches N from Seaton Carew near Hartlepool via Castle Eden, Blackhall Rocks, Seaham to Seaburn, Marsden and South Shields.


·   Equally easy access is via Bishop Auckland, Staindrop and Eggleston to Upper Teesdale – Middleton, Langdon Beck and Cow Green or via Tow Law, Wolsingham and Stanhope to Upper Weardale. Both are rural Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONBs], scenically stunning and steeped in the history of lead mining.


·         The R.Tees rises on the slopes of Cross Fell [highest of the Pennines] whilst the R.Wear rises only 2 kms away and the R.South Tyne rises only 200 metres away from the Tees yet they exit to the N.Sea at Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Tynemouth respectively.


·   The Yorkshire Dales National Park lies to the S of the cross-Pennine A66 trunk road and the Northumberland National Park is no great distance beyond Newcastle.


The nearest bus routes are:

A]  Arriva service7/7A on the A167 – path across the fields from West End- to Darlington or Durham or from the Coach & Horses;

B] Arriva service 6 to Spennymoor and Bishop Auckland or beyond  + Durham in reverse from Croxdale.

C] Northern service X20 to Sunderland via Durham or X21 to Newcastle via Durham . Both go to Bishop Auckland on return. Both call at Croxdale.

D] Occasionally there is an X24 from Croxdale to the Metrocentre + return.


Rail services:

1.  Durham Station is on the East Coast Mainline with fast electric trains to Newcastle [12 mins.], Edinburgh [1.45 hrs], Glasgow, [2.40], York [50 mins], Peterborough [2 hrs] London [3 hrs].

2.  Cross Country trains run S to Birmingham, Bristol, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton via Doncaster or Leeds to Sheffield, and Derby and N to Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen.

3.  First Trans Pennine run N to Newcastle, or S to Darlington, York, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Airport.


HVHA and you:


HVHA is registered with the Charity Commission and is the community association for our village. By its 1954 & 1956 Deeds of Conveyance all adult residents of the village of Hett and outlying farms are automatically members and are entitled to vote at the AGM, stand for positions as Officers, Trustees or its General Committee. HVHA is managed by the Trustees and General Committee. The Association is run entirely by volunteers on a not for profit basis, raises sufficient funds to service its revenue costs but no capital fund and has no employees. It runs the village hall, our ex-Army 2nd World War Nissen Hut on the Green, in green, brought to Hett in 1956 and renovated principally in 2010 using  grant monies – the largest of which came from E.Durham LEADER.


The business of HVHA is to provide a facility which is properly managed as the 1956 Deed stipulates: "the Trustees shall hold the said property as the site for the erection of, and there shall forthwith be erected thereon, a village hall to be used for the advantage or benefit of the inhabitants of the Parish of Hett either gratuitously or in consideration of any money payment or on such terms as the Trustees may think fit".


 The benefit to our community is the operation of the Hall and the activities held there e.g.

·         weekly quiz and boot camp classes, W.I. meetings, coffee mornings, choir rehearsals, parish council +     police authority meetings,

·         privately hired villager parties [christenings/weddings/birthdays etc.,]

·         plus the organised activities of HVHA such as the Village Show, Halloween, Dances, Christmas +     New  Year celebrations, Children's events and monthly Social Nights.


The Hall is the only venue for such activities and events and with the demise of The Hett Arms in 2010 it is the only facility left in the village.  Governance of any community organisation, the more so those registered via the Charity Commission, is tightly controlled nowadays with responsibility for conforming to relevant legislation being overseen by the General Committee, ultimately the Trustees. That HVHA does its best to do this is witnessed by its being awarded the nationally recognised accolade of Hallmark 1 and latterly Hallmark 2 – at the time of writing one of only three village halls in the County to do so. These are an indication of the strength of HVHA, its probity in management, financial affairs and upkeep of the premises


HVHA hopes that now you have come to live in Hett you will not just dwell in your residence but want to become part of what goes on. Villager attendance and support is clearly essential to the vitality of HVHA and its Hall and whilst every event may not be for you we trust many will. News of what’s on, what has happened, a directory of services and commentaries on issues of the moment are published bi-monthly in “Hett Happenings”. Whilst this can be in printed form Email is clearly a more immediate, effective and cheaper alternative – so send one saying you are here please to Mike Simpson, Editor at mikesimpson070@gmail.com and he will add you to his list.


HVHA also has an up-to-date website where the latest is always to be found. It contains photos of “happenings”, editorial, news and events etc. as well as conservation and amenity pages, history of Hett Village Hall, whom to contact as well as what’s on. Please give it a try at hettvillagehall.co.uk


Our Hall has a Premises Licence which permits relevant entertainment and the provision of alcohol for consumption on the premises. This facility is available on Quiz Nights, the monthly Social Nights and any HVHA organised event. It can be hired for any other authorised event including private hirings. We have a range of canned or bottled beers, lagers, spirits, wine by the glass or bottle, soft drinks and regularly draught beer on tap.


We hope you have found this pack helpful and that it will aid your settling in. Do please come along to something, don’t be frightened of introducing yourself and send Mike Simpson an Email. A list of current officers is on the Letterheading at the beginning of each page too.




HVHA. 26.03.13





Now  we have  several  contributed "Histories" of our village and surrounding area.................
Hett Village Hall Association [HVHA] cannot "authenticate" any individual history, but we put them up here, without editing, for your interest. The hyperlinks came embedded in the several sets of text we have obtained. We hope they work for you, but apologise for any frustration should they not
Do please bear in mind that a history is just that ie information attributed at the time the piece was written. For that simple reason names, addresses  and references contained in these histories may not be the way things are now and, as already mentioned, HVHA does not authenticate any of the names and references in the several histories below, any number of which may be "out of date". Hopefully the reader will be inspired to seek out other "Histories" and send them to us to be published to build up the picture.

***Finally a cautionary and happy note.................
As already mentioned, a history is just that  ie information attributed at the time the piece was written. HVHA does not alter documents supplied to us, so when the penultimate paragraph of "History  2 below - Hett Village Hall" speaks in gloomy terms of the decline of the Hall, a decline in use, bookings down and some hitherto regular events being discontinued and the fact that some groups would return if there was a new hall, the reality is that nothing could now be further from the truth! Our Hall is in rude health, fully renovated, welcoming to young and not so young, all inclusive and enjoying greater use by wider and more diverse groups then ever before - read our "Welcome" above and then just come along and see for yourself. You will be very welcome indeed

'Hat' on the hill was home to a medieval mine

From the Northern Echo, first published Friday 14th Nov 2003.

WHEN the Salvin family built a new parish church for Croxdale at Sunderland Bridge in 1845, the addition two years earlier of Hett Village to the parish must have been an important factor.

Hett, which had no church of its own, increased the population of the Croxdale parish by 230 people and a bigger church was needed.

Hett lies a mile south-east of Sunderland Bridge and was transferred from the parish of Kirk Merrington. It was a sensible move since Kirk Merrington is a good four miles south of Hett.

In 1881, a chapel of ease dedicated to St Michael was built in the north-east corner of Hett's village green. It gave Hett parishioners a degree of independence from Croxdale, until its closure in 1978.

Hett can be approached from the A167 via Hett Lane and is accessible from Sunderland Bridge, in the north, or from Low Butcher Race, to the south.

Low Butcher Race, home of the Coach and Horses Inn, lies on the A167 about a mile south of Croxdale and was reputedly named because a party of foraging Scots were ambushed and butchered here shortly before the Battle of Nevilles Cross in 1346.

Hett sits on a hill that the Anglo-Saxons thought resembled a hat and the village name simply means "hat".

Despite recent housing, it is a charming rural oasis, slightly off the beaten track and gives an impression of how many Durham villages may have appeared centuries ago. It is best known for its duck pond, its large village green and as being the place where the fashion designer Bruce Oldfield lived as a boy. He was taught to sew here by his seamstress foster mother, Violet Masters.

In the 1890s, Hett's population was over 350 and the village was described as "pleasantly situated, possessing a green of some acres in extent, round which the houses form a square." The village has changed little since that time.

The huge, if rather rugged looking village green with its duck pond, looks a little bit like a farmer's grazing field. In fact, a number of houses surrounding the green were originally farms. The oldest of these is Slashpool House near the south-east corner of the green. A plaque shows the date as 1708, but parts of the farm may be older and the roof is internally constructed from a "cruck truss" wooden frame.

LIKE many villages, Hett began as an agricultural settlement but it also very much a part of Durham's mining history. It was never the site of a major colliery, but mining was carried out here in medieval times. In the 13th and 14th Century sea coal, as it was then known, was mined at Hett under the jurisdiction of the Priors of Durham Cathedral. In fact, Hett is one of only a small handful of places in County Durham that have documentary evidence of medieval mining.

In 1407, it is known that the Prior of Durham made an agreement with Sir William Blakiston for the construction of a trench "for carrying off water and winning of coal in the lands of Hette".

Blakiston was related by marriage to a family called Hette (or Hett), who owned the manor in medieval times, and took their name from the village.

The site of the medieval mine at Hett is not known but shafts marked on old maps may be associated with the period.

They were located immediately north of the village but may, in fact, be associated with later 18th Century coal workings.

Sadly, opencast mining destroyed the evidence in 1966.

Hett's village pub, the Hett Arms, stands on the western side of the village green and was one of two located in the village in the 19th Century.

Nearby is the village hall, a striking and slightly incongruous feature. It opened in 1962 at a cost of £1,700 and is a salvaged Nissen hut, a barnlike building with a semicircular corrugated roof. Once a common sight during the war years, Nissen huts were named after their inventor Lieutenant Colonel Peter Norman Nissen.

Mining and farming were by no means the only industries associated with Hett. To the west of the village, sand and stone quarrying took place in the 19th Century and Hett was also for many centuries the home of a working mill.

HETT Mill lies on the Tursdale Beck, an upper section of the Croxdale Beck less than a mile east of Hett. There are records of a mill here as early as 1451, but the present buildings and nearby remnants of a millrace are from a later period.

Hett Mill seems to have worked in the production of corn and paper at some stage and was one of four mills mentioned on the Tursdale Beck in 1810. The mill site is on the north side of a level crossing on the main London to Edinburgh Railway line.

Tursdale House, about 100 metres across the beck to the north of the mill, was once the site of a manor house. The house and its accompanying farm buildings occupy the site of the shrunken medieval village of Tursdale. It is situated on Strawberry Lane near a wooded dene that forms the southern terminus of woodland twists and turns its way as far north as Shincliffe.

This was the original Tursdale village, called Trollesden in 1274 but probably named after a Norseman called Thrall or Thryll. The name means something like Thrall's Dene.

The former medieval village of Tursdale is slightly to the north-east of Hett and should not be confused with the present Tursdale, a former colliery site a mile to the south.

If you have memories of Durham including old photos or stories of people and places you would like to share with The Northern Echo, write to David Simpson, Durham Memories, The Northern Echo, Priestgate, Darlington, DL1 1NF. E-mail David.Simpson@nne.co.uk or telephone (01325) 505098

Published: 14/11/2003

Archive Home

From the Northern Echo
© Newsquest Media Group 2003

© Newsquest Media Group 2008


"This district, comprising the townships of Hett and Sunderland Bridge, formerly belonging to the parishes of Merrington and St. Oswald respectively, with a small portion of the townships of Elvet and Ferryhill, was formed by an Order in Council, bearing date June 10, 1843. It is bounded on the north by the River Wear, on the north-west and west by Brancepeth parish, on the south by the road which divides the townships of Hett and Ferryhill in the parish of Merrington, and on the south-east and east by the parishes of Kelloe and Bishop Middleham. The population of the district in 1851 was 438 souls.

"Hett, a township and village formerly included in the parish of Merrington, was attached to that of Croxdale in June 1843. The township comprises and area of 1279 acres, and its annual value is £2964.

Sunderland Bridge is a township and village containing 1376 acres, and its annual value is £5673."

[From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan, London, 1894]



"The number of inhabitants in 1801 was 157; in 1811, 178; in 1821, 233; in 1831, 227; in 1841, 234; in 1851, 234; in 1861, 227; in 1871, 394; in 1881, 338; and in 1891 was 357 souls."

Sunderland Bridge

"The population of the township in 1801 was 250; in 1811, 224; in 1821, 204; in 1831, 283; in 1841, 262; in 1851, 204; in 1861, 285; in 1871, 355; in 1881, 1372; and in 1891 was 1359 souls."

[From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan, London, 1894]

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Church History

"The Church, built in 1845, and dedicated to St. Bartholomew, is a handsome structure in the Norman style, consisting of nave, chancel, and western tower, and is situated at the western extremity of the village of Sunderland Bridge. In exchange for the ancient chapel, Gerard Salvin, Esq., gave the site for this church, the old chapel being now their mortuary chapel. In 1878 the church was enlarged by adding a nave and new chancel; the new nave was added on the north side of the original one; this and the chancel are in Early Decorated style. The church will now seat 412. The cost of the enlargements, which was defrayed by grants and private donations, was about £2000. This was formerly a chapel under the parish of St. Oswald's, and in 1866 it was constituted a rectory. The value of the living, which is in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Durham, is £350; Rev. Edward Greatorex, M.A., rector.

"The Chapel of Ease, situated at Hett, is a structure of wood and plaster, dedicated to St. Michael, and was erected in 1881, having seats for 80."

[From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan, London, 1894]

There is a picture (30 kbytes) of the parish church of the Old Church, Croxdale; supplied by Richard Hird.

There is a further picture (31 kbytes) of the parish church of the Old Church, Croxdale; supplied by Richard Hird.

There is a picture (30 kbytes) of the parish church of the St. Bartholomew, Croxdale; supplied by Bill Henderson.

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Church Records

The Parish Registers for the period 1696-1977 are deposited at Durham County Record Office, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL (EP/Cr).

Index to Baptisms 1813 to 1893.

Marriage indexes for 1732-1837 (7 kbytes) from the George Bell Collection of Durham and Northumberland Indexes.

The Marriages (1732-1837) are included in the Joiner Marriage Database.

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Description and Travel

"The village of Hett is pleasantly situated about four miles south of Durham, and possesses a green of some acres in extent, round which the houses form a square. At the high end the Chapel of Ease to Croxdale is situated.

"Butcher Race is a hamlet in the township, on the Ferryhill road, about five miles south of Durham.

"Sunderland Bridge Village occupies a pleasant situation on the ridge of a steep hill between the River Wear and the Croxdale water, about three and a quarter miles south by west of Durham, and contains two public-houses and a few tradesmen's shops. There is a commodious school on the south side of the churchyard. A skirmish took place near this village on the morning of the day of the battle of Neville's Cross between the English troops and the Scots under Douglas; the latter of whom, having been foraging at Ferry-on-the-hill, fell in with the main force of the advancing English, and fled fighting and retreating till he lost 500 of his best men near this place. The Wear is here crossed by a handsome bridge of four arches.

"Croxdale Colliery Village, where the schools and the Primitive Chapel are situated, is a little beyond the station. It is rather a straggling village, but the houses seem to be well built, and comfortable.

"The Wearside iron and Coal Co. about the year 1875 opened out Croxdale Colliery. When fully employed, the output of this colliery amounts to 600 tons per day, which gives employment to 400 hands in the pit and at the coke ovens."

[From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan, London, 1894]


Local History

Hett (County Durham)

The earliest mentions of the village of Hett date to 1168 and 1335. The name of Hett comes from the Old English word meaning hat,

given the shape and markings of the slight hill on which the village stands. Little is known about the early history of the area. It is only in

the medieval period that we begin to know more about the area. Particularly important is a medieval charter that was written in 1451.

It recorded that two boundary stones marked with a cross should be put up in the village, although no signs of these stones survives

today. The charter also recorded a medieval mill. Although the remains of a mill race can be seen nearby, it is probably of post-medieval

date. An early document also recorded that there was a coal pit at Hett, although its precise location is not known. Coal mining has been

important throughout the history of Hett. In 1966 opencast coal mining in Hett cut into the remains of a possible 18th century coal mine.

The remains may even be older, but there was no firm dating evidence from this site.

Originally five farm houses and one church were built around the village green but now most of the land has been built on and only three

of the original farms remain. The oldest farmhouse, Slashpool House, dates to 1708.

Reference number:








Hett Village Hall


In 1919 just after the First World War, James Gibson and his 2 brothers bought an ex army hut from

Thornley and brought it to Hett in a 4 wheel horse drawn rolley. It was sited at the north end of the village

on land opposite North Street. The hut is still in existence and is currently used as a garage by James’s son,

Fred Gibson. Many people believe that this was Hett’s first village hall. It was not  -  the hut was owned by

the Gibsons although they allowed the villagers to have dances there until the outbreak of the Second World

War. .

Dances were not held during the war years. The ARP house (an empty house now demolished) which was sited

below the pub in West Street  (where Fowlers now live) was used for Parish meetings and whist drives.

Following this Jimmy Liddle allowed the villagers to use his guinea pig building (the old building near the

phone box) as an ARP house and also for Parish meetings.

At the end of the war a Victory Tea, bonfire and sports were held at Squibbs’ old house (now Garth Farm).

This was only used as a communal building for a short time.

The villagers started collecting for a village hall of their own in Coronation year (1953). At the time, the

Hett Arms was owned by the Watt family who allowed fundraising whist drives and domino handicaps to be

 held in the upstairs room.  Arthur Shaw and Mrs Eleanor Cunningham were both very active fundraisers. 

The landlord Arthur Watt was the grandfather of 5 present Hett residents (Shirley Connelly, Sue Raper,

Winnie Ronson, and Arthur and Ian Watt).

When Arthur left the pub fundraising continued and barn dances, whist drives and dominoes were held in

Reece Morton’s barn. (the barn was on the site of the new conversions adjacent to where Swainstons now


The present Hett village hall is a striking and slightly incongruous feature. It opened in 1962 at a cost

of £1,700 and is a salvaged Nissen* hut, a barnlike building with a semicircular corrugated roof.

It is thought that the hut was possibly made for the Egyptian Campaign during the Suez crisis in 1956 and

not needed after the premature withdrawal of the British at the end of the year. The opening ceremony was

performed by a Councillor Wild from Gilesgate in Durham City.

The paraffin heaters used in Morton’s barn continued to be used in the new hall until money was raised for


Since its inauguration  the hall has been well used: it has been used for village weddings, funerals,

christenings, birthday parties – both young and old, youth clubs, mother and toddler groups, village shows,

dancing lessons, photography groups, yoga, tai chi, fitness groups, Woman’s Institute, operatic group

practise, cinema, theatre, polling booth, Caravan Clubs using the 5 van site at Grove Farm,  dance practise,

band practise, quiz nights, computer groups as well as numerous village hall fundraising and social events. 

However it is now nearing the end of its life and is no longer feasible to maintain. Due to the deterioration

of the hall it is no longer used by the Dales Pony Group or for the local church lunches, although both are

willing to return should we obtain a new hall. The bookings for weddings and parties are also much less

frequent for the same reason. Due to the state of the building, fitness sessions, youth clubs and mother and

toddler groups are no longer held. 

*Once a common sight during the war years, Nissen huts were named after their inventor

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Norman Nissen.