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The Victoria , School Street , Witton-le-Wear - geograph.org.uk - 306750.jpg
School Street , Witton-le-Wear
Witton-le-Wear is located in County Durham
 Witton-le-Wear shown within County Durham
Population 690 (2011)[1]
OS grid reference NZ150320
Unitary authority County Durham
Ceremonial county County Durham
Region North East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district DL14
Dialling code 01388
Police Durham
Fire County Durham and Darlington
Ambulance North East
EU Parliament North East England
UK Parliament Durham North West
List of places
County Durham

Coordinates: 54°40′36″N 1°46′24″W / 54.676734°N 1.773391°W / 54.676734; -1.773391

Witton-le-Wear is a small village in County Durham, England. It is situated on the north bank of the River Wear, 6 km (3.7 mi) to the north-west of Bishop Auckland.

Geography and administration[edit]

The Weardale Ward is represented on Durham County Council by Anita Savory (Independent)and John Shuttleworth (Independent). Witton le Wear is part of the Durham North West Parliamentary constituency which is represented by Pat Glass (Labour) and is also in the North East Region which serves as a constituency for the European Parliament. Witton le Wear also has an eight-member Parish Council to serve its residents.

The local police force is Durham Constabulary. Witton-le-Wear is in the Wear and Tees division.




The place name Witton or Whitton is fairly common in the north of England. The name sometimes derives from "white farm" but in the case of Witton-le-Wear, as with many others, Witton refers to a farm (Anglo-Saxon: ton) in or near woodland (Anglo-Saxon: widu). Witton-le-Wear's name is attested as Wudeton from 1104, but had become Wotton in Werdale by 1313. This subsequently evolved to the present form.[2]


The then farming hamlet of Witton-le-Wear was part of the Witton Castle estate, which was bought in 1816 by Sir William Chaytor for £78,000 from the Stobart family. He redeveloped the Castle, and in 1819 developed the Jayne Pitt as part of the large Witton Park Colliery complex. This brought about the development of transport into the area, including the Etherley Incline Railway by George Stephenson, that connected to his Stockton and Darlington Railway at Shildon, and hence onwards via Stockton to Newport on the River Tees.

After the S&DR was extended into Bishop Auckland, the railway was able to access the limestone deposits within the upper River Wear valley. This brought employment to the valley through both mining, as well as production of both pig iron and cement, which was distributed by the railway to all parts of the United Kingdom.

Weardale Railway[edit]

However, as the price of road haulage dropped, the line fell into disuse and carried its last train in the early 1990s. Over recent years the Weardale Railway has been reinstated by BARRS and again used to transport locally mined opencast coal to Scunthorpe and Ratcliffe Power Station.

The line is also run as a heritage railway, operating on many weekends and holidays by Weardale Railway Trust in conjunction with BARRS, and provides a tourist route in and out of Weardale. A railway halt has been provided at Witton le Wear since early 2013, (though it eventually re-opened in March 2016).


Witton-le-Wear's last village shop was closed in 1998 leaving the village with only two public houses, 'The Dun Cow' and the 'Victoria'. There are two churches, the Parish Church of St Philip and St James Church of England and the Methodist Chapel. A small, but active congregation, attend Sunday services alternate weeks in each building. The original Board School erected in 1874, was replaced in 1968 with a new primary school in St James Gardens, [1] which has around 100 pupils attending form Witton le Wear and surrounding villages. The original school now provides a Community Centre for the village which is used most days by a variety of groups and organisations.

Witton Castle Country Park is situated over the River Wear from the village and consists of a majestic 15th-century castle and grounds, which is rapidly gaining a good reputation. [2]


In the village is Witton Tower, a medieval pele tower with later additions.[3] The village green has been a major feature of the village for over 200 years. The trees along the top were planted to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Further trees have been added to celebrate Queen Elisabeth's Silver and Golden Jubilees and other important occasions.

Notable residents[edit]

  • Ernest ArmstrongMP (1915–1996) was a British Labour politician and MP for North West Durham from 1964–1987. He served as parliamentary private secretary from 1965, labour whip, junior minister for Education and Science (1974-1975), Environment (1975-1979). In 1979 he became Deputy Speaker until he retired from active politics in 1987. Ernest Armstrong lived in Witton le Wear for a major part of his life and he was also a well known lay preacher in the Methodist chapel.
  • Lydia de Burgh (1923–2007) was the only resident Irish artist to have had personal sittings with the Queen and the late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.She painted the Queen on several occasions. [3]. Lydia and her family lived in Witton Hall for a time.
  • John Garth, composer
  • Thomas Jackson (1579–1640), scholar and priest.
  • Anthony Salvin (1799–1881), the architect, spent much of his boyhood at Willington, where he lived with his grandfather.
  • Henry Taylor (1800–1886), born in Bishop Middleham, spent his youth in Witton-le-Wear with his stepmother at Witton Hall (now Witton Tower) in the high street. His father George was a friend of Wordsworth and the poet visited him in July 1838. In Witton, Taylor wrote The Cave of Ceada which was accepted for the Quarterly Review. Another poem, The Lynnburn, is about the river which runs through the village.


  1. ^ "Parish population 2011". Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Simpson, David. "Place names and their meanings". North East England History Pages. Retrieved 27 June 2005
  3. ^ Witton Tower at British Listed Buildings Online

External links[edit]