‘Wulf’s farm or village’. Oluestona [1091-2]12th, Wlfestuna 1114-28, 1153-95, Wluestun(a) 1128 – c.1350, -ton’ 1218 – 1326, Wolueston(‘) c.1250-1682, Wolviston from 1296, Wlestu’ early 13th, W(u)lleston’ 1256-1370, Wlston 1322-71, Wolston, c1340-1668, Woulston(e) 1573-1614, Wuston 1576, Woo(w)ston 1579, Woston(e) 1580, 1695. Old English personal name Wulf, genitive singular Wulfes + tun. This name, for which there is an exceptionally rich run of forms illustrating the local pronunciation, commemorates the unidentified donor of the estate to Durham Priory.

Information about this place name was provided by Victor Watts by personal communication.


Early Landowners

Throughout the Middle Ages part of Wolviston, which lay within the parish of Billingham, belonged to the monks of Durham Priory. The Bishops of Durham also had land in Wolviston and in the 13th and 14th centuries the Belasis family were significant landowners here.

See The Victoria History of the County of Durham vol.3 (ed.) William Page (1928).


An Early Mention

The will of Ralph Catterick of Wolviston can be found in “Wills and Inventories from the Registry at Durham” part iii (ed.) J.C.Hodgson (1906): “April 26, 1591. Ralph Catrick of Wolveston, parish of Billingham. To be buried in Billingham church. I geve to my wife, Alison Catrick, all my lands, etc., which came to me by inheritance in Wolveston. To my sonn and here, John Catrick, all my lands and hereditaments (except before excepted) in Wolveston. To the chappell in Wolveston, on(e) gimmer lambe. To the reparinge of Billingham brigg, 2s. To every child whome I helped to christen, 12d. To the poore in Wolveston, 2s. . . my curate, Johnn Manoell, 5s. . . Overseers, George Thorpe and Robert Watsonne.”


An early mention in literature can be found in “An Historical, Topographical and Descriptive View of the County Palatine of Durham” vol. 1, E.Mackenzie & M.Ross (1834)

“The village of Wolviston is pleasantly situated on the turnpike road between Sunderland and Stockton. . . It is a considerable village, and contains several good houses . . . An annual festival with petty races is held on the Monday after St. Mary Magdalen’s day'”


Selected Buildings

The Rectory (c. 1800)

Methodist chapel (1829)

The parochial school (1836)

The Londonderry Almshouses (1838)

St. Peter’s (1876)


A Few Lost Buildings

Wolviston Hall (c. 1834) demolished in 1966.

Wolviston Mill (possibly 17th century) severely damaged by fire in 1974 and subsequently demolished.


Some People of Note

Martin Madden (1855-1928) A United States Congressman who was born in Wolviston. He was the driving force behind the American government’s plans to create the Panama Canal.

Captain Rowland Burdon Webster (1890-1945) A military man who lived at Wolviston Hall. He became High Sheriff of County Durham in 1925.

Ronald Williams (1907-1958) A politician from Wolviston who was elected as M.P. for Wigan in a by-election in 1948. His political career was cut short due to an accidental overdose of sleeping tablets.


The Hearth Tax of 1666

32 houses in Wolviston had one or two hearths in 1666. 5 houses had 3 hearths but no house had more than 3 hearths. There were 37 houses that were exempt from Hearth Tax as the householders fell below the tax threshold.

See “Hearth Tax List for South Durham Lady Day 1666” (ed.) J.C.Howe for Cleveland Family History Society.



1801     411

1851     750

1901     607

2011     877



Pigot’s Directory for 1828-9 asserted that Wolviston “is cheerfully situated on the road from Stockton to Sunderland”.  Six inns were named: The Duke of Wellington, the Greyhound, the King’s Arms, the Ship, the Shoulder of Mutton and the White Swan. Also listed were 3 grocers,  4 butchers, 2 tailors, a boot and shoe maker, 3 corn millers,  2 blacksmiths, 2 cartwrights, and a spirit and tea dealer. There is no guarantee that this is a complete list and the same applies to Ward’s Directory of 1936 which named only 2 butchers, a grocer, and a confectioner.


A Selection of Dates

1129     Ranulph Flambard, Bishop of Durham, confirmed the grant of certain lands in Wolviston to the monks of Durham Cathedral Priory.

1190     Hugh du Puiset, Bishop of Durham, employed an architect known as Richard the Engineer around this time. Richard apparently came from Wolviston.

1335     A document of this year referred to a chapel in Wolviston that had been there during the reign of Richard I (1189-1199). This chapel had a guild or fraternity attached.

1541     The former priory lands in Wolviston were granted to the Dean and Chapter of Durham.

1569     Four Wolviston men were executed for their part in the Rising of the North.

1577     Wolviston was separated from the parish of Billingham.

1716     Wolviston chapel was rebuilt.

1723     Sundial House has the date 1723 on its sundial.

1759     Wolviston parish register began.

1820s   A brick and tile works was established at the edge of the village.

1829     The Wesleyan Methodist church opened.

1830     A tower was added to the parish church.

1836     Wolviston parochial school was opened. It closed in 1876.

1838     Almshouses were built in the village.

1841     A pottery was recorded at Wolviston in this year, thought to date back to the 1820s. At this time there were six public houses in the village.

1848     John Stephenson sold his bull Duke of Exeter to a cattle breeder in New York state.

1857     In this year, the historian William Forsyth described the Wolviston annual festival.

1866     Cholera was responsible for 23 deaths in Wolviston this year.

1876     St. Peter’s church was built, replacing an earlier building.

1877     Wolviston Board School opened.

1878     The United Methodist Free Church was dedicated.

1884     The village cricket club was founded.

1905     Wolviston pottery ceased production.

1918     The brickworks and pottery buildings were demolished and the site was returned to farmland.

1938     A man from Haverton Hill was hanged for a murder committed at a Wolviston farm.

1940     The village hall was built.

1942     A German bomb was dropped on a Wolviston farm, setting fire to a haystack.

1967     The A19 road was re-routed to bypass Wolviston to the east.

1982     The A19 was again re-routed, to bypass Wolviston to the west.

The village hall became a community centre.

1988     Wolviston Football Club joined the Wearside League.

2001     Wolviston Cricket Club achieved promotion to the Premier Division of the North Yorkshire and South Durham Cricket League and reached the semi final of the National Village Championship. Wolviston Football Club won the Sunderland Shipowners Cup.

2015     An all-weather turf surface was laid at the school playing field.


This list of dates was based on information from “An Illustrated History of Wolviston Village” by Adrian Liddell (1988) and other sources.


Suggested Further Reading

The Victoria History of the County of Durham” vol.3 (ed.) William Page (1928)

Wolviston 1851” W.H.Smith (C.F.H.S. Journal vol. 5 no. 5, 1983)

“Boundaries Unlimited: A History of Wolviston Cricket Club” A.Roxborough (2009)