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"This parish was formerly very extensive, including, as it did, the chapelries of Barnard Castle, Denton, and Whorlton, and occupied, with the exception of the intervening parish of Winston, about eighteen miles of the north bank of the Tees, between Pierce Bridge on the south-east and High Shipley on the north-west. At present it is bounded on the north by the parish of St. Helen's Auckland, on the north-west by the parish of Staindrop and parish of Ingleton, on the west by Winston parish, on the south-west and south by the Tees, and on the east by Denton and Coniscliffe parishes. The parish of Gainford, as at present constituted, comprises the townships or constableries of Gainford (including Alwent and Selaby), Langton, Headlam, part of Cleatlam, Summerhouse and Pierce Bridge.

"Gainford Township, which gives its name to the parish has an area of 2274 acres. In July 1893, the land was valued in the County rate, at £6044.

"Cleatlam, a township partly in the parish of Staindrop, contains 1097 acres. The annual value is £1166, 10s. 4d.

"The pleasant and picturesque old village of Gainford is celebrated amongst the ancient villages of Durham for its salubrity and many interesting features. It is situated within a pleasant country, on the slope of a hill which falls gradually to the Tees. In its western part is one of those open spaces or greens, so characteristic of the village of this county, and around which the principal houses are built. A good supply of water is obtained from several springs in the neighbourhood. On the line from Darlington to Barnard Castle, which passes close to the village, there is a station."

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


"Census populations for Gainford were:- 1801 - 445; 1811 - 431; 1821 - 500; 1831 - 524; 1841 - 585; 1851 - 669; 1861 - 735; 1871 - 820; 1881 - 897; 1891 - 868."

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

The 1851 Census Index (booklet 61) published by the Cleveland Family History Society may be of value to researchers interested in this parish.

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Church History

"The present church, though of early date, is believed to occupy the site of a still more ancient edifice, as we find it recorded by Simeon of Durham, that Edw or Edwine, a Northumbrian chief, who had exchanged his helmet for the cowl, died in 801, and was buried in the monastery of Gainford "in the church." Of this foundation there is no further mention made by any of our ancient historians, but it was doubtless a humble structure - perhaps made of wood - and, like many more monastic institutions formed previous to the Norman Conquest, of a temporary nature and with no settled or certain foundation. A more valuable and permanent establishment arose soon after this circumstance, for Egred, Bishop of Lindisfarne, 821-845, and owner of extensive possessions in this district, chose Gainford as the spot whereon to build a church and also a vill. Fragments of crosses, coeval with this date, are still to be seen within the church, and built into the walls.

"The church is dedicated to St. Mary, and its erection is ascribed to the community of St. Mary's Abbey, York, early in the thirteenth century. It is situated on the south side of the village green, and consists of nave, aisle, with north and south chancel, and a square western tower, containing six bells and a good clock. The tower is open to the nave, and is supported by pointed arches, and similar ones, of unequal span, resting on cylindrical pillars, separate the nave and aisles. The chancel opens from the nave, under a plain pointed arch, supported by corbels, beneath which are traces of the masonry on which the beam supporting the rood-loft formerly rested. In 1864, owing to the church having fallen into a bad state of repair, a thorough restoration was made, at a cost of over £3000. The chief alterations at this time were the erection of an organ chamber, with fine organ, and a north porch. During the repairs, a number of sculptured stones of pre-Conquest date were found, and are now placed under cover. There are several fragments of fine Saxon crosses also preserved, some of which are beautifully carved. Amongst the collection of ancient stones there is a Roman altar, dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus, and a stone marked LEG VI. V. Various grave-covers, and other stones of later date are built into the walls of the north porch."

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

There is a picture (17 kbytes) of the parish church of St. Mary, Gainford; supplied by Richard Hird.

There is a picture (43 kbytes) of the parish church of St. Mary, Piercebridge; supplied by Ike Dawson.

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Church Records

"The parish register commences in 1560." [From History, Topography and Directory of Durham, Whellan , London, 1894]

The Parish Registers for the period 1560-1980 are deposited at Durham County Record Office, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL (EP/Gai).

Marriage indexes for 1569-1719 and 1720-1837 from the George Bell Collection of Durham and Northumberland Indexes.

The Marriages (1569-1837) are included in the Joiner Marriage Index.

The following records for churches in the ancient parish of Gainford are also available at Durham County Record Office, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL:-

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