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Middridge (County Durham)

Middridge shown within County Durham
OS grid reference NZ251261
District Sedgefield (borough)
Shire county County Durham
Region North East
Constituent country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Newton Aycliffe
Postcode district DL5
Dialling code 01325
Police Durham
Fire County Durham and Darlington
Ambulance North East
European Parliament North East England
List of places: UKEnglandCounty Durham

Coordinates: 54°38'N 1°40'W? / ?54.63, -1.66

Middridge is a village in County Durham, in England. It is situated to the East of Shildon and to the North West of Newton Aycliffe. The village is situated not far from a quarry that was mined by the people many generations ago. There is one public house in the village, 'The Bay Horse'.


[edit] History

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Saxons arrived in the area around 500 AD and created several settlements, including Middridge. The name "Middridge" is derived from its location at that time on the "middle ridge" between Eldon and School Aycliffe (near the current Aycliffe golf course).

Saxon Middridge lasted for five hundred years before being destroyed by the Normans during William the Conqueror's Harrying of the North. Those who survived this massacre (and the resulting disease and starvation) were enslaved by the invaders. They were forced by the Bishop of Durham to toil in the surrounding fields as serfs, and forcibly relocated to gloomy huts centred around the village green. The "serfs" eventually gained their freedom and the village green survives to this day, although the housing has improved considerably!

The arrival of the industrial age in the nineteenth century resulted in several coal mines, such as Charles Pit and Middridge Drift. These pits provided employment for hundreds of people. The remains of this era live on in the form of places such as Charles Row and the "pit heap", a small hill used in the winter as a sledge run! Until recently, the pit heap was also used to host the annual village bonfire, but this tradition has passed into the history books.

[edit] Notable Buildings and Structures

Middridge Grange is a Grade 2 listed building situated just outside the village itself, between Shildon and School Aycliffe. It is one of the oldest buildings in the region, beginning life as a large Elizabethan manor in 1578. However, the current Middridge Grange bears little resemblance to the splendour of the original manor, with much of the building destroyed by fire in the 19th century.

Used as a farmhouse, it has been owned by the Scott family since the early 20th century but has not been lived in since the 1970s, after falling into serious disrepair. A site of great interest to historians, it is currently undergoing an extensive renovation.

Middridge Village Hall was originally built as a school for the children of the village and local farming community. It served this purpose very successfully for many years, but due to a continuing fall in pupil numbers in the 1950s and 1960s and changes in education policy, it closed.

To prevent the building becoming neglected and falling into ruin and dereliction, the committee of the village association took over the administration of the hall. After various repairs and alterations, the hall became the Village Hall, which it has been for well over thirty years. The village hall has been used as a venue for discos, church services, parties and social gatherings such as the monthly wine club. The Village Hall has recently been (at last!) reurbished due to many local residents' suggestions, which included an entirely new roof section, plumbing structure and electrical system.

[edit] Famous Residents

The Byerley Turk, the great stallion owned by the then Captain Robert Byerley, was arguably Middridge's most famous resident. The Byerley Turk was one of the founding stallions of today's thoroughbred horses and was stood at Middridge Grange, until being moved to North Yorkshire when his owner married.

Colonel Robert Byerley was the son of Colonel Anthony Byerley, a cavalry officer serving Charles I in a unit known as "Byerley's Bulldogs". The Byerley line eventually died out, but their name lives on in place names around the region, such as Byerley Park, Byerley Road etc.

It is believed that King Charles I of England took refuge in Middridge Grange during the English Civil War.

[edit] Legends and Folklore

The Middridge fairies (or faeries) are, according to legend, very different from the kind, winged fairies of popular culture. They are rumoured to be evil demons that scourge people and generally cause mischief. The story goes that the fairies chased a traveller, who took refuge in Middridge Grange, getting inside the building just before the pitchfork struck the door. The pitchfork mark was reputedly on this door for many years afterwards. They were also blamed for disruptions to the building of the Stockton and Darlington railway.

[edit] The Village Fete

Middridge village fete is a yearly event for the local community (but people come from miles around!) It is usually a combination of a jumble sale, children's entertainment, competitions and other events, usually ending in a barbecue that is enjoyed alongside copious amounts of alcohol!

(Source: Wikipedia)
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