History courtesy of Wikipedia
Photos by me
Traditionally, Ryton’s economy was built upon agriculture and coal mining. Some think that coal-mining was taking place in the area as early as Roman times, however it was not until 1239 when Henry III granted that coal may be mined outside the walls that mining became extensive. The agriculture industry on Ryton was mixed and included both pastoral farming and arable farming.
Ryton’s position south of the Scottish Borders and Hadrian’s Wall made it a target for Scottish attacks in the area, and it is said to have been burned by William Wallace in 1297. A further attack by David II of Scotland was recorded in 1346, during which the church was plundered.
As well as its coal industry, Ryton formerly contained the lead-smelting reverberatory furnaces of the Ryton Company, whose mines were on Alston Moor. This business was amalgamated into the London Lead Company in 1705.
Ryton soon became a place of migration for the wealthy, who wanted to escape the urban sprawl of the Industrial Revolution in Gateshead and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
A reminder of Ryton’s affluent past is found in some of the old mansions at old Ryton village, a place rich in rural qualities because of its proximity to Ryton Willows on the banks of the River Tyne.
After the decline of the coal industry during the second half of the twentieth century Ryton became increasingly suburbanised and is now used as a commuter village for those that work in the more urban areas of Tyneside.
The neighbouring village of Crawcrook is a nexus of coal mining nostalgia also. Remnants of several old pits across Ryton and Crawcrook, including Emma, Clara and Addison can still be found. Within a couple of hundred metres of both Crawcrook and Ryton main street there is rich countryside.
Perhaps the most impressive section of this countryside is Ryton Willows Local Nature Reserve located on the banks of the Tyne, just past Old Ryton Village. It consists of 43 hectares of grassland, ponds, woodland and locally rare species of flora and fauna. Because of this it has been designated as a site of special scientific interest.
Other areas of countryside include nearby Stargate pond and Addison and Hedgefield woods. It is at Addison woods that Alexander Graham Bell made one of his pioneering telephone calls.
Further up the Tyne Valley, past the village of Crawcrook and into the border of Northumberland, there are rural market towns such as Prudhoe, Corbridge and Hexham.
Other features of Ryton
The earliest record of a church in Ryton is in 1112. However, the oldest surviving church is The Holy Cross church, the oldest building in Ryton, that dates back to 1220. The most striking feature of the church is its 13th-century broach spire which is 36 m tall. Other well known artefacts include a 13th-century Frosterly marble effigy of a deacon holding a book.
There have been a number of prominent rectors of Ryton. These include: Thomas Secker (1727), later the Archbishop of Canterbury; Charles Thorp (1807) virtual founder and first warden of the University of Durham; and The Hon. Richard Byron (1769), brother of William Byron, 5th Baron Byron and great-uncle of Lord Byron.
Both John Wesley and Charles Wesley bothy preached at Ryton’s village green, which has a rich history with religious and social significance. Like many greens in similar villages, it played host to an annual fair which included jugglers, dancers and local stalls.
The old pinfold dates back to the twelfth century. During the second half of the twentieth century the pinfold was restored.
Charles Thorp set up a Savings Bank in 1815 in a building within the old village known as the White house which still stands there today. It is thought to have been the first bank of its kind in England.
The annual Ryton Music Festival, held over February and March, has been held in the village for more than 60 years. It offers a variety of music and drama including choral singing and mime.
The Ryton Summer Festival, held at the local comprehensive school usually includes live music, sport and arts and crafts stalls.
Each year on the Tuesday before Christmas Eve villagers gather on the village green to sing traditional carols accompanied by a local brass band.
There are two air raid shelters in Ryton Willows, as well as other Second World War features such trenches and shower/toilet rooms with tiles, etc. still visible, next to a railway line that was apparently used to bring children up from London. A dirt road hidden under trees leading up to the bottom of the village may have been a checkpoint.
- George Hepplewhite – Furniture designer
- Howard Kendall – footballer
- Stan Ramsay – footballer
- Thomas Secker – Archbishop of Canterbury
- Charles Thorp – Founder of Durham University
- Robert Thorp – Clergyman
- Rachel and Becky Unthank – Folk singers, grew up in Ryton
- Nicholas Wood – Civil and Mining engineer
- Charles Algernon Parsons – Engineer and inventor of the steam turbine