The Parish of Kirklevington and Castlelevington lies in the south-west of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees, adjacent to its border with North Yorkshire. The edge of the Cleveland Hills and North York Moors are clearly visible to the east and south of the Parish.
The village is in a semi-rural location amidst mixed farmland but close to main shopping centres such as Yarm (2.5 miles away) and Stockton-on-Tees (about 7 miles away).The A67 passes through the village of Kirklevington and forms an excellent link to the main highway, the A19, which connects with Teesside and Tyneside to the north and York and Leeds to the south.
Yarm lies to the north of the Kirklevington Parish boundary but Yarm station is located within Kirklevington Parish and gives access to rail services south to York and Manchester, and east to Middlesbrough. Also along the northern boundary, and falling within the Parish, are HMP Kirklevington Grange and the associated housing estate. Durham and Tees Valley Airport (7 miles away) provides links to domestic UK and international destinations.
Our Parish has a long and rich history. The Parish system predated the Norman invasion and it has continued to be a useful means of defining both civil and ecclesiastical Parish. Within the ancient ecclesiastical Parish were the townships of Kirklevington, Castlelevington, Picton and Low Worsall with a central church – St Martin‘s (re-dedicated to St Martin and St Hilary in 2011). Low Worsall’s separation in 1892 has been the only change in possibly 1,000 years. Worsall now has its own Parish council and Picton has a Parish meeting.
An Iron Age beehive quern stone dated 350 BC to 200 AD found close to Kirklevington village is evidence of early settlement and farming. Fragments of Roman pottery have been found in gardens in Forest Lane.
(Above: Iron Age quern stone; Castlelevington earthworks – Copyright Tees Archaeology)
Anglo-Saxons and later Vikings invaded and settled. Where the church now stands carved preaching crosses and probably a wooden church stood. Stones dating from 810 AD, found during the 1883 church restoration, are of international importance and have been exhibited in Norway and at the Yorvik Centre in York. They are now on display in Preston Hall Museum. Carved stones from Anglo-Saxon times are also built into the church walls.
In 1089, Lentune (Kirklevington) and alia Lentune (Castlelevington) were Hawaart’s land taken by the King and granted to Robert de Brus. Kirklevington was granted in marriage to the Percy family. Robert de Brus gave Kirklevington Church and its chapel at Yarm to Guisborough Priory. The de Brus’s probably built a wooden castle which gave Castlelevington its name. The castle had a short life but earthworks (illustrated above) remain. The earthworks are protected as a Scheduled Monument.
Kirklevington village remains largely within the footprint of a Norman village. Early Norman arches and carved stone coffin lids within the church are testament to skilled medieval artisans and are indicative of a time of relative peace. But Kirklevington was a frontier village and documents show that in 1319 the village suffered destruction from a Scottish army. In the 15th century, the chaplain destroyed the prior’s houses and closes within the village. Wars and incursions continued until the late 17th
(Viking stones from the church now in Preston Hall Museum – Copyright Tees Archaeology)
century. The passage of armies was impeded by the River Tees. In the 15th century the site of the manor house was being farmed. Postholes and hearthstones of a medieval building were unearthed when Hall Garth was developed for the new Primary School.
A manor house with a tithe barn existed in the 17th century. Pottery and coins from medieval times to the 17th century have been found in gardens along Forest Lane. In 1692 William Hall left land with two cottages in trust for the poor.
For a century Castlelevington was the home of the Merriton family. Their mansion, Red Hall, was destroyed by fire in 1703, including a library of valuable books.
In the early 19th century the Reverend John Graves, author of the first history of Cleveland, described Kirklevington as:
‘farmhouses which are decent and commodious … a few cottages
…appearance…an idea of poverty and wretchedness’.
Thomas Bates purchased the southern half of the manor in 1811 and moved into Town End Farm. His interest in cattle had brought him to Yarm to inspect cattle at Yarm Fair. He improved the land, and his prize Shorthorn cattle made Kirklevington world famous. A fine memorial to him stands in the churchyard. As a resident landowner he had a social conscience and brought prosperity to the village. For centuries Kirklevington relied on passing trade from drovers bringing cattle from the west following the drove roads across the North York Moors to York and the south. Cattle drives gradually ceased with the advent of railways. Green roads fell into disuse or became local routes. Inns supplied refreshment, accommodation and grazing land. Sundial Cottage (dated 1786) and the farm next door to The Hollies, Preston House, are thought to have been inns.
Some farms and cottages within the village and in the surrounding area date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Brick burning was noted in 1721 and that was probably a time when single storey cottages of wattle and daub and thatch were rebuilt in brick.
The old school (dated 1857) was built on William Hall Trust land and was in continuous use from 1876 until 1973. Afterwards it was used as a play school. It was sold in 2011.
(Above: Old School building; memorial to Thomas Bates)
Thomas Richardson built Kirklevington Hall in 1884, having purchased the northern part of the manor. Profit from Hartlepool shipbuilding and coal mines was used to plant trees and develop a country estate. Houses were provided for staff along Green Lane and along Thirsk Road. Kirklevington Hall and The Grange were wired with electricity supplied from a battery house. Villagers were employed on the estates.
The last of Thomas Richardson’s sons to live in Kirklevington Hall was the Reverend Charles Richardson. On his death in 1940 the Hall was acquired by the Army as a regional headquarters. During the Cold War there was a secret underground command centre (now a private residence) in Kirklevington Hall grounds. Kirklevington Hall later became the residence of the circuit judges, hence its current name - Judges Hotel.
In the late 19th century the second Thomas Richardson renovated and extended Kirklevington Grange, an old farm house. The landscaped grounds included a cricket ground (where the former prison houses now stand). A boating lake in West Gill served a dual purpose - providing water for the Hall by way of a ram pump.
(Kirklevington Hall, now Judges Hotel; the Grange (early 20th century), now a pre-release prison)
Sir Thomas and Lady Richardson had nine children. Five sons died in military service and a daughter died from measles. After World War 1 the three remaining children sold The Grange to Arthur Dorman whose family firm, Dorman Long, built Sydney Harbour Bridge. In the 1960s Kirklevington Grange opened as an institute for young offenders and is now a pre-release prison.
(William Wind memorial window in St Martin and St Hilary church depicting the church before its restoration; Crown Inn, late 19th century)
In the 19th century Arncliffe Garage was a joiner’s. The Crown Inn (illustrated above) faced the turnpike road to Thirsk and the publican was also the village blacksmith. A vicarage was built in 1846 by public subscription, on glebe land. Thomas Bates gave a strip of land along Pump Lane to extend the garden. In 1883 St Martin’s Church was restored. William Wind of Picton acted as unpaid clerk of works. The builder’s bankruptcy was one of many problems he faced. Fundraising by the Parish produced a remarkable memorial window (illustrated above) to Wind who died aged 27.
In 1933 water from Cod Beck was piped to the village superseding the village well on the west side of Pump Lane. 1948 saw electricity in the church. A field purchased by the villagers in the early 1900s for surface water drainage became the site of the sewage works in 1967.
In 1946 the 240 people of Kirklevington and Castlelevington started fundraising to buy land and build a Memorial Hall in memory of the people who had died in the two World Wars. The Memorial Hall was completed in 1954 and was opened by Arthur Dorman. The Memorial Hall, now rebuilt in brick, is maintained by the community. Further fund-raising provided a bus shelter to commemorate the Coronation, improvements to the children’s play area, and has also allowed three bells with a combined age of almost 1,000 years to ring again in the church bell turret.
A Colonel Spence originally built Tall Trees in the 1920s as a gentleman’s country house. His lasting memorial is the Spence Bequest of fine art, weaponry and other collections on display in Preston Hall Museum.
During the 1960s, 70s and 80s the Kirk Country Club drew people from all over to see the likes of Elton John, Jimmy Hendrix, Rod Stewart, Georgie Fame and others who came to perform before stardom took them to greater heights. This was also a period of village expansion. In 1971 the developer of The Green described Kirklevington thus:
‘It really is a beautiful place to live. An intimate village just 3 miles from Yarm.
The scenery around Kirklevington is magnificent, undulating countryside all the
way to the Cleveland Hills.’
In 1974 Kirklevington and Castlelevington became part of Teesside, later Cleveland, and are now in the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees.
The inhabitants of the Parish continue to look forward with responsibility to the future, based on their stewardship of the village and the surrounding area.