Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Sacriston’s Roots (NZ235480)

Sounds very ‘religious’ doesn’t it? And you’ll not be surprised to learn that, yes, the town of Sacriston does, indeed, owe its founding to something relating to the cathedral down the road.

On a little spur overlooking the woods to the north-west of the settlement was the site of a now long-gone medieval manor house. Hugh Pudsey, perhaps Durham’s most famous Bishop, gave the area to the sacristan of Durham Cathedral monastery in the 12th century, and eventually a manor house was built there in the 13th century. In case you’re wondering, a sacristan was a senior monk responsible for sacred relics, together with the general day-to-day running of a religious house (these guys were more recently known as sextons).

During its early history, the plot of land was farmed by monks and the revenue raised was used to provide the sacristan with, effectively, his living. Over the years, bits and pieces were sold off, and on the Dissolution what was left was passed back to Durham Cathedral.

On maps thereafter it was shown as Sacristan Heugh, but with the coming of large-scale mining in the 19th century – and the development of the nearby town – the area took on the name of Sacriston. However, locals did (and still do) refer to the town affectionately as Segerston or ‘Segga’, a term derived from the old spelling/pronunciation of the root word for ‘sacristan’.

Though a few stones from the old manor house survived within Heugh House, a farm building later constructed on the site, the complex was demolished shortly after World War II owing to subsidence caused by the surrounding mineworks. 

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