The quiet and pretty village of Hurworth-on-Tees is a prime example of the villages and towns that form along the River Tees in the Darlington area, like Croft, Piercebridge and Neasham. You could pass through and be forgiven in thinking you were somewhere else, such as the Lake District, it is so peaceful. Hurworth is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the industrial towns further downstream. However, it is a pleasant reminder of the variation we have in the Tees Valley, and things have not always been so quiet in Hurworth.
The Great Plague swept across the nation In the 17th Century, leaving many towns and villages desolated, not differentiating between rich and poor, affecting everyone in some way. Hurowrth was no different. In 1665, the plague hit Hurworth. Of the population of c.750, only 75 survived. Today, you can see three depressions on the village green which mark the site of huge lime pits, in which up to 1500 people were believed to be buried in. These were from the surrounding villages as well as Hurworth. Bodies would be ferried across the Tees and buried there.
The church of All Saints stands near the east end of the village close to the bank of the Tees. The site is an ancient one, and a fragment of a pre-Conquest cross was found in 1871. Perhaps the most famous person to have lived in Hurworth was William Emerson, an eminent mathematician born in Hurworth in 1701. He was educated at Newcastle upon Tyne and York and then devoted himself to mathematics. He died at Hurworth in 1782 and has a monument in the church of All Saints.
Of those who were landowners in Hurworth, Neasham and Croft, there was Sir William Tailbois, who was a supporter of the unpopular Duke of Suffolk. In 1450, he was charged with an attack on Baron Ralph Cromwell in the Star Chamber. Tailbois took the Lancastrian side in the Wars of the Roses, and was made a knight at the second battle of St. Albans, 17 February 1460–1, by Prince Edward, son of Henry VI. In May 1464 he fought at Hexham and he was beheaded at Newcastle on 20 July.
Hurworth Grange, a Victorian Mansion built as a wedding gift by Alfred Backhouse for his nephew James, was once visited by Rudyard Kipling; it is claimed that 'The Roman Centurion's Song' is based on a sarcophagus he saw there. One of the former owners of Hurworth Grange was the Spielman family, a Jewish family and as such they felt it was their duty to help Jewish refugees fleeing Eastern Europe during the 1930s. Many of these refugees found shelter at The Grange while they were seeking new homes in England. On the 11th of February 1956, The Holy Family School in Scorton, a Juniorate school of Saint John of God, was transferred to The Grange. It was used as a school for boys who wished to become Hospitaller Brothers. In 1967 the Brothers decided to close the school and sell The Grange. In October of 1968 the Durham County Council purchased The Grange and gave it to the Hurworth Parish Council to use as a Community Centre.
The Grange was officially opened as a Community Centre on the 20th September 1969. Since then it has served the community of Hurworth well, offering many different services and activities, such as a library, concerts, sports events, a wedding venue, amongst many others.
If you want to see more of this lovely area, join us on Thursday 14th June on our Broken Scar to Hurworth guided walk!