Chester-le-Street in 1837
Chester-le-Street is on the high north road between Durham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, six miles from Durham and eight and a half from Newcastle. The parish comprehends an area of 31,260 acres : it is mostly in Chester ward, to which it gives name, but extends into Easington ward : its population in 1831 was 15,478. It is divided into several chapelries or townships, of which the principal, with their areas and population in 1831, are as follows :- Chester-le-Street (chapelry), 2,940 acres, 1,910 inhabitants ; Tanfield (chapelry), including Beamish and Lintz Greeen (townships), 6,760 acres, 2,498 inhabitants ; Birtley (township) 1,480 acres, 1,520 inhabitants ; Harraton (township), 2,090 acres, 2,171 inhabitants ; Lamesley (chapelry), 3,390 acres, 1,910 inhabitants ; and Great Lumley (township), 1,730 acres, 2,301 inhabitants : the last, with the two smaller townships of Lambton and Little Lumley, is in Easington ward ; the others in Chester ward.
The name of Chester-le-Street gives this place a two-fold claim to be considered a Roman station ; yet neither the name nor the exact site of the station (which some would remove as much as a mile from Chester) has been determined. The Saxons called Chester, from the name of the brook, Cone, which flows past it, Coneceastre, or Cuneceastre: it became in A.D. 882 the seat of the bishopric, which was removed hither from Lindisfarne, and it retained its Episcopal rank until 995, when a Danish invasion drove away the bishop and his clergy, who afterwards settled at Durham. The church, after losing its rank as a cathedral, became first rectorial, afterwards collegiate ; the manor has been constantly vested in the see of Durham. The revenue of the college at the dissolution was £77, 12 shillings and 8 pence. The present village extends nearly a mile along the north road ; another more irregular line of houses runs along the brook at right angles to the main street. The church consists of a nave with side aisles, a chancel, and a tower at the western end, surmounted with a lofty spire rising to the height of 156 feet from the ground. The lower part of the tower is of Early English, with a Perpendicular west door and window of later insertion, and with massy buttresses : the upper part of the tower, which is of later date, is octagonal ; it has an embattled parapet and four pinnacles ; the spire is also octagonal. The interior of the church and many of the windows have been modernized : there are some remains of painted glass : the north aisle contains the monument of the Lumley family : there are fourteen altar tombs with as many stone effigies, mural tablets, &c. The living is a perpetual curacy, worth £377 per annum. The deanery-house, so called as being built in place of the former residence of the dean of the collegiate church, is a handsome brick house ; there are no vestiges of the ancient buildings.
Lumley Castle, in the township of Great Lumley, is on a fine gradual elevation above the Wear. It is a quadrangle of yellow freestone, with an open court or area in the centre, with four uniform towers. It is an ancient building, and the east front retains its former magnificence : a noble gate-house projects from the centre, with overhanging turrets : this front overhangs a ravine through which the Lumley beck flows ; on the west and south the ground slopes gradually down to the Wear. The castle was probably built in the latter part of the fourteenth century. The pictures are chiefly portraits of the ancient family of the Lumleys. The village of Great Lumley is a mile and a half from Lumley Castle. It contains an almshouse or hospital for twelve poor women, founded in 1686 by John Duck, alderman of Durham.
Lambton Hall, the seat of the earl of Durham, was built in 1797 on the site of the old house of Harraton, the former seat of the Hedworths : the grounds are pleasant, but the building displays many incongruities. Ravensworth Castle, the seat of Lord Ravensworth, is a modern building : its style is varied, being a selection from the castle architecture of different periods, not too remote however to be brought into contact. The park includes a heronry. In a private road near the castle there is a cross with a plain shaft and pedestal.
Lamesley and Tanfield chapels are modern buildings. Besides the noblemens seats already mentioned, the parish contains the residences of several of the gentry.
There were in the whole parish in 1833 seven day-schools with 243 children, wholly or in considerable part supported by endowments or other charitable contributions ; forty-seven other day-schools with 1,325 children ; and fourteen Sunday-schools with 1,220 children. Three of the endowed schools are Sunday-schools also, and are attended by more children on Sunday than in the week. Two schools have lending libraries attached. There are several congregations of Wesleyan Methodists in the parish.