Dinnington Location Map
Early History- Dinnington is located across the boundaries of the ancient (probably Anglo-Saxon) townships of Dinnington and Mason. The village of Dinnington has been a place of habitation since well before the Iron Age (700 BC), indicated by artefact evidence and aerial photographs which show two Iron Age enclosure settlements. Evidence of Roman activity was identified when William Shotton, whilst ploughing, found Roman military bronze cooking utensils near Prestwick Whins in 1890.
Anglo Saxon occupation is also evident from the names of the townships such as Prestwick, Mason (Merdesfen) and the surrounding farmsteads such as Berwick Hill, and indeed the name Dinnington itself. The earliest written records originate in the 12th century and indicate that Dinnington was part of the parish of Ponteland in the Barony of Mitford.
Ponteland Ecclesiastical Parish in 1922
Land Ownership- Development of the area, from the beginning of the 18th century, is particularly well recorded, especially land ownership. In 1763 Dinnington was bought by Matthew Bell the second, who lived at Woolsington Hall. The Bell family owned land within Dinnington for many years, whilst Mason was owned by a number of different families. The fourth Matthew Bell was involved in coal mining which greatly influenced Dinnington's later history. The same Matthew Bell became MP for Northumberland from 1826 to 1856. Dinnington, originally in Northumberland until 1974, is today part of Newcastle.
Map of Dinnington in 1864
Dinnington Church Built in 1886
Religion- Until 1835, Dinnington and Mason were part of the ecclesiastical Parish of Ponteland. At that time the original St Matthew’s Church was built, although possible evidence of an earlier church was found in 1820 in the Bye Yards field when William Sheriton of Dinnington uncovered some large stones when ploughing. Human bones were found about a yard underground together with the foundations of a building and what could have been gravestones.
The foundation stone of St Matthew’s church was laid by William Robson Esq. in 1834. It was endowed by Matthew Bell Esq. and the wardens of Merton College Oxford. In October 1835 the church was consecrated and Rev. J. R Furness was presented to the vicarage. This first church served the purposes of the Parish up until 1886 when the present St Matthews was built. This church is larger than its predecessor which, it is rumoured, was demolished to unseat the unpopular vicar. St Matthew’s still remains an important part of village life today.
This school was built in 1871 by Matthew Bell Esq. It was known as Dinnington Village Council School until 1945 when it became a County Primary School.
Education- Education in the village began in 1719 when Richard Coates of Horton Grange bequeathed money to the Parish of Ponteland to be spent on a charity school. The first boys only school in Dinnington was opened in 1825, situated on the triangular piece of land opposite the Mason's Arms. In 1842 a girl’s school was built opposite (now Dinnington Green Estate entrance), whilst the boy’s school was enlarged at the expense of the Bell family. In 1871 a new boy’s school was built, currently a youth club. A small classroom was built at the back for girls in 1874. The current school, Dinnington First School, was built in 1961 with 2 classrooms, and completed in 1964, although it has since been considerably enlarged.
Mining- It is not known how long coal has been worked in the area, probably long before Richard Peck noted a Dinnington colliery in 1715 and this, he said, was the second pit on this course. There were also pits at Brenkley in 1726 and Horton Grange in 1728. The first deep mine was the Augusta Pit at Dinnington Colliery (now Brunswick Village) sunk in 1867. Hazlerigg, at that time in the parish of Dinnington, was sunk in 1895 and received the adjoining village's name from the fact it was on lands formerly owned by the Hazlerigg family.
Dinnington Colliery (Brunswick)
East Walbottle Coal Company sank the Robert Pit at March Terrace in 1908. It was eventually worked in conjunction with Prestwick Pit until they both closed in 1966. Coal was then worked from the Havannah Drift until it closed in1976 and the Brenkley Drift which was closed in 1986. Opencast mining started at the Mill Hill in 1945 and has worked around the locality of Dinnington almost continually to the present time.
Farming- From the earliest records it can be seen that the farming in the area used the traditional feudal system of tofts and crofts of 30 acres each. After the dissolution of the monasteries however, during Henry VIII’s reign (1538), much larger farms were the norm.
A map of 1730, indicates that two farms were present in Dinnington, at that time; George Barron’s farm, situated at the site of the Old West farm, now the entrance to the Dinnington Green Estate and John Turner's farm which was on the site of the old school house. The West farm was listed as Dinnington farm. Other farms noted in Dinnington are Moorey Spot and Havannah, formerly situated at the eastern end of the Airport runway, where Dinnington Mill was located. Both of these farms were mentioned in Parish registers.
The farms in Mason were cultivated as one unit. The North Mason farm buildings were demolished in 1996 and the old South Mason farm house, which stood at West Acres was replaced by the current one opposite the village hall, which is now a private dwelling. Unlike many of the farms, some of the old field names have survived. For example, Toft Hill and Back (Bye yards) are still fields in use at West Farm.
Prestwick Carr- Development of the area has been constrained by the existence of Prestwick Carr, which at one time was a lake and mere extending from Dinnington to Ponteland. It was used as a source of peat fuel (turbiary rights) for surrounding parishes and religious houses and also by the locals for shooting game. When the Carr flooded it would have also been used for fishing. The church also found a use for the Carr’s flooding as an effective way to transport coffins.
Plans that would have affected the Carr included its use as a reservoir to supply Newcastle with water. There was also a plan in 1845 to build a new railway line to Scotland that would run along the edge of the Carr. These plans however, were never completed.
In 1852, under the General Inclosure Act, draining of the Carr was started, and was completed in 1859 with nine miles of drains built. The Environmental Agency is now responsible for the drainage and the area still occasionally floods. The Ministry of Defence owns a large part of the land which abuts the military rifle range. The road is a popular spot with cyclists and the occasional walker.
Buildings- Few old buildings remain, but some elements can be traced. A 1730 map of the area shows only 15 buildings. North and South Mason farms, Mason quarry cottages, the old school house and Front and Back street, the proper names of which are South and North View. Public houses in the village date back to 1828. The Bay Horse first began as a shop selling ale to the coal borers. Listed innkeepers of the Masons Arm's include Mark Taylor in 1828 and John Short in 1855. The White Swan was previously known as Simpson’s Inn. A notable landlord of the White Swan was “Pusher” Armstrong, a well known cyclist.
An 1837 map of the village shows the village green full of houses, some of which survived until the 1950’s. The only survivor of the old street is Fenwick Cottage, which was extended before the First World War. Before the installation of mains water, the village was served by wells. One is still evident beside the White Swan, which was formerly known as the Lady Well.
Crime- Dinnington has been noted for crimes in the county’s court records, dating back to as early as 1256. However, the most famous crime has to be that of the ‘’Snowball Murder’’ in 1875. On a snowy night in December, four miners, three from Dinnington Colliery (later known as Brunswick), Thomas Arnott, William Wood and Robert Schooler and one from Burradon, George Hunter, were walking from Dinnington Colliery to Prestwick Carr to shoot birds. When it got dark the men visited the White Swan where they met two village men, Thomas Thorne and Samson Mead. The men walked back towards the village and Thorne and Mead were taking part in a snowball fight. Once the two village men had walked on ahead, William Wood of Dinnington Colliery began to throw snowballs at George Hunter of Burradon who threatened to shoot Wood if he didn’t stop. “Stop heaving and clotting or I’ll fire.” To which Wood replied, “Oh you’ll not fire Geordie.". The sound of a gunshot was heard and Wood was found shot by the churchyard, which is how the murder earns its other name, the ‘’Churchyard Murder’’. Wood died soon after.
George Hunter was found guilty on March 5th 1876 and was found to have committed previous shootings. He was hanged at Morpeth on 28th March. William Wood’s funeral took place the following Sunday of his murder, when he was buried in the churchyard 1500 people were said to have attended.
Wartime- During the great war the men who lost their lives from the Parish have their names recorded in St Matthews Church, the Dinnington Memorial Institute (the men’s institute by the village hall), and the Brunswick war memorial.
The village was however, more affected by the Second World War. This was down to the threat of invasion. The security measures taken included air raid wardens and local defence volunteers. The men themselves tended to provide their own arms. Road blocks were also made in the form of tree trunks with small cart wheels attached to either end in order to roll them across the road. Men were stationed to watch the road blocks at night. Luckily, however, these measures weren’t needed as it was discovered that the man stationed to watch the Blacksmiths corner from the old South Mason’s Farm kitchen couldn’t actually see the road due to his short-sightedness.
The local defence volunteers eventually became a platoon of the home guard and were issued with old Canadian rifles. During the first week of the war a company of the Manchester regiment were stationed at Dinnington, using the village hall and the joiner’s shop. These men remained there until they were posted to France in 1940.
Dinnington was lucky to escape bombing attacks. Seaton Burn was bombed, but Dinnington was undamaged. A bomb also landed in Beech Avenue, in what was then a field, however, but failed to explode and was removed and disarmed.
The names of 29 men who lost their lives were added to the memorial in St Matthew’s Church.
Local Government- During Norman times Dinnington and Mason were controlled by the Barony of Mitford. Although law was administered in the early 1300’s by Justices of the Peace for the monarch, Tynemouth priory had claim over the land of Mason. Lesser roles and duties (commissioners, grand jurors and overseers of highways) were conducted by local people. The Parish Councils Act of 1894 addressed some of the area’s needs at a local level. The Parish of Mason was formed in 1894; then covered half of modern Dinnington and the surrounding areas.
Dinnington Parish Council, formed in 1919, was responsible for the other half of Dinnington. 1920 saw the first council houses built in the area, and by 1947 Dinnington had the use of mains water and gas, electricity and street lighting. It wasn’t until after the war, in about 1948 that house-building restarted in the area. The old stone houses on Front and Back street were demolished in the mid-1950’s thus recreating the village green. Dinnington Green Estate was built in 1971, when West Farm was demolished.
The Village Hall and Men’s and Women’s Institutes were built in 1923 and in 1969 the Parish Council became its trustees. In the boundary changes of 1974 Dinnington, Brunswick and Hazlerigg were incorporated into the City of Newcastle upon Tyne. The Parish council still remains and deals with the local matters of Dinnington village.
Compiled by Kate Thompson (with acknowledgements to Dinnington: An Ordinary Village by Mr. Miles Watson).