‘Thorpe held by the Thewles family’. Thorpp’ Thewles 1265, Thorpethewles from 1312 with variants –theules –theweles and – thelesse 159-1684. Earlier simply Torp(‘) c.1170-1821, ‘the outlying or secondary settlement’. Old Norse thorp. Thewles is probably a manorial addition from the Yorkshire surname Thewless, Thewlis, Old English  theawleas ‘wanton, dissolute’.

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

Early Landowners

In the return of knights’ fees in 1166, Galfrid de Torp held half a knight’s fee here. Several members of the Thorp family granted lands in their “vill of Thorp” to the monks of Finchale Priory. The Fulthorpe family held the manor from 1346 until 1629.  Robert Surtees, the historian of County Durham, gives the pedigree of three landowning families: the Kendals, from William Kendal (died 1577) to Anthony Kendal (died1666); the Sedgwicks, from John Sedgwick (died 1615) to Gerard Sedgwick (died 1677); and the Tweddells, from Robert Tweddell (died 1623) to George Tweddell (died 1732). The Blakiston family also held lands in Thorpe Thewles.

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

and The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, vol. 3, R.Surtees (1823)

An Early Mention

Some land in Thorpe Thewles was granted to Finchale Priory in 1265. This can be found in “Charters of Endowment of the Priory of Finchale” ed. J.Raine, Surtees society (1837).

“Alan, once clerk of Sherburn, greetings in the Lord. Be it known that I have conceded, given and confirmed to God and to St. Godric and to Galfrid the Prior of Finkeall and the monks serving God there, and in perpetual service, 8 acres of arable land in the field of Thorpp Thewles. Given at Durham, 1265”

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

“The village of Thorp-Thewles is situated on the turnpike road between Durham and Stockton, 5 miles north-north-west from the latter place. It contains a flour-mill, a public house, and the tradesmen usually found in such country places. The Marchioness of Londonderry, in 1824, built a room for a day and Sunday-school on the north side of the village, which she has endowed with £15 per annum. There are usually about 60 or 70 children taught in this school; and the curate of the parish delivers afternoon lectures in it every Sunday. A benefit-society, consisting of from 30 to 40 members, is carried on in Thorp, towards the support of which the Marquis of Londonderry subscribes two guineas annually; and the Marchioness provides clothing for many of the poor children of the parish. On the east side of the village is an old brick mansion, formerly the residence of the Davison family, but now let in tenements, and falling fast to decay.”

Selected Buildings

The Vane Arms (17th century)

The Hamilton Russell Arms (18th century)

St. James church (1887)

A Few Lost buildings

Holy Trinity (1848) demolished in 1887.

Railway viaduct (1877) demolished in 1979.

Station waiting room (1882?) demolished, but a careful reproduction was built in 1989.

Some People of note

Robert de Thorpe (fl. 1290) A judge from Thorpe Thewles who was appointed a justice of the common pleas by King Edward I.

George Tweddell (1665-1704) A Thorpe Thewles man who became an alderman of Durham city. In 1693 he married Elizabeth Heslop, a niece of Sir John Duck, Bart, a wealthy mayor of Durham. In 1701 George Tweddell became mayor of Durham.

Rev. William Cassidi (1814-1882) An Irish clergyman who was vicar of Grindon for more than 40 years. He played a large part in the building of Holy Trinity, the first church in the village of Thorpe Thewles

Charlotte Riley (1981-  ) An actress born in Thorpe Thewles. She played the lead in the 2009 film of Wuthering Heights and has acted in many television dramas.

The Hearth Tax of 1666

Thirty houses in Thorpe Thewles had one or two hearths in 1666. One house, belonging to “Alexander Davison Gent.” had seven hearths. There were 23 houses exempt from tax.

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


1801     The population of Grindon parish was 125

1851     267

1901     391

1951     425

2001     2,603 (Grindon parish)


Whellan’s Directory of 1856 listed the Vane Arms and the Hamilton Arms along with 2 shopkeepers, a butcher, a tailor, 2 shoemakers, a joined, a blacksmith  and the post office, run by Mary Lowes. There were 8 farmers, 2 of whom were millers.

Kelly’s Directory of 1914 itemised 10 farmers, a shopkeeper, a coal agent, a miller, the Hailton Russell Arms and the Vane Arms. There was also a police station and a post office run by William Arrowsmith.

 A Selection of Dates

 c. 80 A.D. The Iron Age settlement at Thorpe Thewles is thought to have been abandoned.

1265     Earliest written reference to Thorpe Thewles.

1570     A water mill is mentioned in local records at this time.

1655     The parish register of Grindon began.

1788     St. Thomas’ s church at Grindon was partly rebuilt.

1816     George Fleetham made a codicil to his will for the annual provision of funds for the education, clothing or apprenticeship of poor children in Thorpe Thewles.

1824     The Marchioness of Londonderry built a school on the north side of Thorpe Thewles.

1849     Holy Trinity Church was built. It was demolished in the 1880s.

1857     There was a flour mill at Thorpe Thewles at this time.

1874     The Co-operative Store opened.

1877     Lowson Street School opened. The railway viaduct at Thorpe Thewles was completed.

1882     Thorpe Thewles railway station came into service.

1887     St. James’s church was consecrated.

               The Wesleyan Methodist chapel was dedicated.

1916     Five men from Grindon parish were killed on the Western Front during the First World War.

1919     Wilkinson’s Motor Services began a regular bus service bewteen Fishburn and Stockton which passed through Thorpe Thewles.

1931     Thorpe Thewles railway station was closed to passenger traffic. The line continued to be used by through traffic until 1968.

1940     A prisoner of war camp was built to the south of Thorpe Thewles on the road to Stockton. It was near Kiora Hall. Army pill boxes were constructed near Thorpe Thewles railway viaduct.

1941     Bombs were dropped near the railway viaduct during an enemy air raid.

1979     The A177 main road to Stockton was re-routed past the village. The railway viaduct was demolished.

1980     Excavations were undertaken that revealed an Iron Age settlement.

1982     The Castle Eden Walkway was established, from Thorpe Thewles station to a point between Castle Eden and Wingate.

1983     A visitor centre for the walkway was opened in Thorpe Thewles stationmaster’s house.

1989     Leazes Farm cheese packing began.

1990     The Cleveland and Darlington Astronomical Society was formed by an amalgamation of two older societies. It met in Grindon Parish Hall in Thorpe Thewles.

2001     The planetarium near Thorpe Thewles station was opened.

2005     Thorpe Thewles Local History Group was formed.

2008     The village post office closed.

2014     Fairview Children’s Home was opened.

2016     History Boards were unveiled on the village green.      

This list of events was compiled using the Victoria County History of Durham vol.3 ed. William Page (1928) and other secondary sources.

Suggested Further Reading

“Thorpe Thewles of Grindon Parish” Thorpe Thewles History Group (2007)

“A Snapshot of Thorpe Thewles in the Twentieth Century” DVD Thorpe Thewles History Group

“The Excavation of an Iron Age Settlement at Thorpe Thewles, Cleveland 1980-1982” D.Heslop (1987)