West Rainton has an intriguing and ancient history; a place where direct ancestors of Her Majesty the Queen lived at one time.
According to Robert Surtees’ The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, the origin of the name for the village derives from Reingwald, who was the son of Franco (one of the seven monks who followed the body of St. Cuthbert from Lindisfarne).
There are many different spellings of the name over hundreds of years:
Reynington (Rogero Clerio de Renington), Reynoton, Reynton, Rayntona, Rainton, and others.
In ancient times it is likely to have been densely wooded with an abundance of wild life, belonging to the Prior and convent of Durham. An appointment of a park keeper occurs in 1338. Robert Surtees records that six persons from Rainton joined the ‘Rising of the North’ rebellion of 1569, two of whom were afterwards executed.
In 1657 Richard Marshall assigned a tenement and farm holding in West Rainton to Marmaduke Allenson. It then passed into the hands of West Rainton’s more famous son – Sir John Duck, Baronet – a Dick Whittington of the North East of England. He owned and built Rainton Hall around the year 1688. (Pedigree of Duck, Heslop and Nicholson).
Along with many others in County Durham the villages of West Rainton and Leamside expanded and developed in the 19th century as a result of the development of the mining industry. The Londonderry Family, the major local landowners, expanded their coal mining interests with the opening and sinking of new shafts in and around the villages.
This meant there was an influx of new miners and their families and rows of colliery houses were erected and the villages expanded.
Ancient Rainton families (c1871)
John Richardson, Richard Marshall, Marmaduke Allenson, Sir John and Lady Anne Duck, James Nicholson, Thomas, Earl of Strathmore and his wife Jane, nee Nicholson; Anne and Mary Nicholson; Patrick and Anne Lyon Esq.; John, Lord Glamis; Philip Jackson, Mr. Benjamin Dunn, Edward Fenwick Body, Thomas Pyburn, John R. Sutherland, James Turnbull.
The mining influence of the community was to the fore in the 19th and 20th centuries. At one stage it was reported that there were in excess of 27 public houses and 13 churches and chapels to serve the increased population.
By the latter part of the 20th century (mid 1980’s) the coal mining industry in the UK had been virtually closed.
With appreciation to the West Rainton & Leamside History Group.
Church, Chapels and other Places of Worship
Church of England
It is believed the first religious building in the village of West Rainton stood on the site of the present parish church. A 12th century chapel with chantry dedicated to The Virgin Mary. It was demolished in the 16th Century and its stone re used for buildings on land belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Durham and The Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It was not until 1828 that a new chapel of ease belonging to Houghton le Spring parish church was built and consecrated. This was made the parish church in 1846. The present parish church was erected on the same site in 1864 and is also dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin. The Tower with spire was added later in 1877 as a gift from Sir George Elliott, in memory of his daughter. Of special interest in the interior is a piece of granite inscribed with the date and name of the donor brought from the Great Pyramid of Giza with permission of Ismail Pasha, Khedive of Egypt.
The Old Ebenezer Chapel, Hall Lane
John Wesley himself is believed to have twice preached to the miners of West Rainton in April 1747. Services were held in the homes of members until a chapel was built in Hall Lane in 1822. Its last service was held in 1956 and the chapel closed due to lack of support, having once been extremely active. It was subsequently used for many years as book storage. Still standing, it is the only listed building in the village. Recent planning approval has resulted in it being converted into a house.
Primitive Methodist Chapel, Station Road, Leamside c1900
The next chapel to be built in the parish was The Primitive Methodist Chapel in Station Road, Leamside. This was erected in 1867 and closed in 1973, also due to lack of support. Sold to the scouting association it was used by the village cubs, scouts and guides before being re sold and converted to residential use.
Rainton Gate Methodist Chapel, (2004)
The third chapel in the parish is Rainton Gate Methodist Chapel. It was built in 1874 for and by local miners when they found they could not all be seated in Hall Lane Chapel. It has continued to be used until only recently, closing in 2004, and the property sold.
The Salvation Army
It is not known when the Salvation Army started in the village of West Rainton, however services were taking place in the 1920’s. Many villagers attended more than one service in church and chapels as this was their main social life. Although well attended, not everyone “joined up”. There were 2 full time Officers and a Sunday School operated together with a band and Home League (Women’s Group).
Situated in South Street, opposite the Old Drill Hall (now the Jubilee Hall) the Salvation Army premises was a large wooden structure. Once services were stopped it was purchased, cut down in size and re-erected in a garden within the village for use as a garage. It remains there today.
The Parish is located in the centre of County Durham and has a well established road network in all directions. Being located close to the A1 (M) (j62), it is easily accessible. The Parish includes two principal settlements. West Rainton and Leamside. The rural aspect of the parish ensures that there are good views of County Durham particularly from the junction of School Avenue and Benridge Bank where “the Miners Church” (Durham Cathedral) is visible in all its majesty, some 4 miles west.
Both villages have good footpath links into the surrounding countryside and we pride ourselves on the quality of our walks. A Cycle Hub is currently under preparation and this will further enhance the opportunities for accessing the outdoors.
West Rainton has approximately 600 households and Leamside about 50. Both villages are traditionally proud of their warm and friendly community spirit.
The Parish lies in the City of Durham Parliamentary Division and is served by Durham County Council.
West Rainton Village is located about 1.5 miles east from the Durham intersection of the A1M (j62) and immediately alongside the A60 dual carriageway between Durham/Sunderland. It has a primary school, medical centre and community centre (the Jubilee Hall). It has a small variety of local community shops plus two pubs/restaurants.
In the 1970’s when the now demised City of Durham Council last did a village plan for West Rainton it was deemed to be a village in decline. In recent years however, there has been considerable housing development and as a result a significant rise it its population. This has presented service providers with the new challenges. Many of the improvements to the village in recent times have been driven by the Parish Council and the Community Partnership.
Leamside lies 1.5 miles to the north west of West Rainton. The moth-balled railway line which originally ran from the East Coast mainline at Tursdale to Newcastle via West Rainton, Washington and Pelaw provides a physical demarcation line between the communities of West Rainton and Leamside. Apart from one restaurant/pub, a plant nursery and several livery stables, there are no other community or commercial facilities in the Leamside.
Leamside has remained constant in size and its planning constraints render it unlikely to grow. View West Rainton or Leamside on the interactive map provided Durham County Council, just put in your house number and postcode when you enter the site