ONE hundred and 50 years ago this week, the Bishop of Durham, Charles Baring, climbed the limestone ridge to the east of Durham City and consecrated the new church dedicated to St Paul which had been built for the miners and quarrymen who lived in the high lands of Cassop-cum-Quarrington.

This suggests that this was a typically new County Durham industrial community, but in the Middle Ages it had been the centre of its own shire, Queringdonshire or Quarringtonshire, which spread for miles around.

The name “Quarrington” is also ancient: it began as “Quern-dun”, the hill where the quern stones were quarried. It was not just grinding stones that were quarried there: the limestone that gives it its lofty position can also be burned to create lime which is turned into cement – Durham Cathedral is probably held together with Quarrington Hill lime.

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The locals also scrabbled coal out of the ground, and when at the start of the 19th Century, railways and tramways arrived, Crowtrees Colliery was sunk. It was one of about a dozen pits up and around the hill, causing a boom in population and the need for the new church. But by the end of the century, most of those pits were worked out, although the last, East Hetton Colliery, mined on until 1983.

With the change in population, St Paul’s Church became disused in 1991. There was a concerted campaign to preserve it – even as an arts centre – but it came to nowt and the church was demolished at the end of 1993.

Its graveyard remains, although is being reclaimed by nature. Indeed, nature is taking back all of the old industrial workings and, with its unusual geology, the area has become renowned for its nature reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and good walking. Even the site of the East Hetton slurry lagoons, created by coal washing, has been transformed into a marshland habitat for orchids, newts and hares.

Many thanks to Clive Tunstall, George Tunstall, Keith Pounder and Bobby Robson for their help with today's pictures. If you have any information or memories triggered by the Quarrington Hill area, please email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk