The Middle Ages

Map showing the wearside area and a “Farnton Hall” dated from 1577

The first traceable records of Farringdon begin to emerge at least as early as the late 14th century, although this is not a definitive date for its founding. The area existed within the parish of Bishopwearmouth and was allocated under the township of Silksworth.

The name Farringdon is attributed by America’s Cornell university as deriving from “Farm or hill of Faer or his sons” which stands to reason given its elevated geography. This may hold a clue to its origins, although the date such a name was applied remains unclear. It is important to understand that with the lack of a printing press in the Middle Ages, the name had many inconsistent variations on its spelling. Some of these included: Farnton, Farendon, Farrington and Ffaernton.

By the 15th century, Farringdon existed as a Monastic Grange under the Priory of Hexham. With historic County Durham having been under the jurisdiction of the “Prince Bishops” in the Middle Ages, it is logical that the land was at some point owned by the church, which early records allude to. In the Middle Ages, cities were small and economic life was largely organized around rural farming communities such as Farringdon. The area was described as a Demesne, which “was all the land retained and managed by a lord of the manor under the feudal system”.

In 1440, a figure of local importance resided in the village known as Robert Jakson. Jakson served the role as Sunderland’s baliff, a role in the Middle Ages which was in charge of collecting rents and accountings in a given area. Records show that he held land in other parts of County Durham simultaneously and played a role in resolving disputes between other landowners accordingly. The baliffs would collect taxes from residents on behalf of the bishop of Durham, with one such individual living on Farnton known as William Billyngham being recorded as paying “100 marks” in taxes in the year 1460.

In 1479, The Black Book of Hexham, a church led property accounting, offers specific details onto what existed on the estate during this timespan during its ownership by the priory. Again describing it as part of Silksworth, the text specifies that there was a “windmill”, “four husband lands” “12 cottage lands”, “one waste”, a “common oven” and brewing. The “hold court” was in Silksworth. The specific remains of these buildings and their locations as of present appear to be lost, but are likely to have been based around Anthony Road, which is where the manor estate was later situated.

At the end of the Middle Ages, King Henry VIII ascended to the throne and sought to consolidate ecclesiastical power under the crown, setting up the Church of England and dissolving the Monasteries. In doing so, the era of the Prince Bishops in County Durham effectively came to end and Monastic Granges such as Farringdon were sold to private owners, ushering in the era of the land as a private estate. In line with this, a new manor “Farringdon Hall” was built in 1597 also on present day Anthony Road, but by the 20th century this building was also lost.

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