NETTLESWORTH and Kimblesworth are former mining villages on the western side of the Great North Road between Chester-le- Street and Durham.

On the 1850s map, Nettlesworth was called Broadmires and consisted of terrace rows. Nearby, to the south-east of the village, was marked a tiny settlement called Tan Hill, where Kimblesworth and Nettlesworth now meet.

Kimblesworth does not seem to appear on this map but closer examination reveals a cluster of farmhouses and cottages called Kimblesworth, half a mile south of today’s village. Later maps call this settlement Kimblesworth Farm or Kimblesworth Grange, and it still exists today.

Kimblesworth was first mentioned in the 1220s, but dates from Anglo-Saxon times when it was Cymel’s enclosure.

The Durham historian Surtees, writing in about 1820, describes Kimblesworth as a village of two or three farmhouses and a few cottages left of the Great North Road.

Since the present Kimblesworth does not seem to have existed in his day, Surtees was clearly referring to Kimblesworth Grange.

In the 1850s, another Durham historian, Fordyce, referred to the same place as having eight houses and two farms. The population in 1851 was 36.

In a field south of Kimblesworth Grange there once stood a church. Nothing can be seen on the ground, but aerial photographs reveal a small building with an apse.

This was Kimblesworth church, which by 1593 had fallen into ruin when parishioners transferred to Witton Gilbert.

After describing the foundations of this lost church, Surtees mentions embankments north-east of Kimblesworth on the edge of the Great North Road.

He reveals that these formed the Vivarium de Kimblesworth, an artificially created fishpond, mentioned in a charter of Bishop Pudsey in the 1100s. The pond is still recalled in the name of Stank Lane, an old farm track leading to Kimblesworth Grange from the garden Nursery at Pity Me, half a mile to the south. A stank was a fishpond or dam.

Kimblesworth belonged to the Eure family in the 1400s, passing to the Tempests of Holmside, who forfeited the land after the 1569 rebellion.

Elizabeth I then gave Kimblesworth to the trustees of Robert Bowes, from whom it passed to the Sandford family.

On September 8, 1675, Richard Sandford, of Kimblesworth, was murdered in London and his land passed to his son, also called Richard, who was born, it is said, on the hour of his father’s death.

This Richard died without an heir and Kimblesworth passed to the Honeywoods and then to the Lambtons.

Nettlesworth, meaning enclosure in the nettles, is mentioned in 1286 and although there are early records of its ownership, the original location is unclear.

Surtees and a 16th century map of dubious accuracy place Nettlesworth southwest of Plawsworth, but the 1894 Whellan’s History of Durham places it to the north-west.

This was the site of Nettlesworth Hall, which stood until recent times on a pathway between Nettlesworth and Edmondsley.

The hall was probably at the heart of Nettlesworth manor, which belonged to a family called Gategang in the 1300s.

In later years, Nettlesworth passed to the Hagthorpes, Wessingtons and, by the early 19th century, to the Askews.

The Askews also acquired two smaller properties nearby.

One property was called Holemyers and had once belonged to Kepier Hospital near Durham. The other, called Broadmires, lay slightly to the east.

In the 1850s, Nettlesworth Colliery opened near Edmondsley and the new terraces called Front Street and Back Street were built to accommodate the miners. The terraces were located near Nettlesworth’s intriguingly named Ugly Lane.

Broadmires Terrace, now Nettlesworth’s Front Street, which includes the Black Bull Inn, was built later in the century.

Broadmires seems to have been renamed Nettlesworth through an association with Nettlesworth colliery. In fact, three mines called Nettlesworth existed in the area at one time or another and the last did not officially close until 1974.

Nettlesworth’s first colliery owner was Sir George Elliot of Houghton Hall who, in partnership with William Hunter, of Sandhoe, Northumberland.

Kimblesworth Colliery also had its own railway, which crossed the Great North Road by a viaduct before joining the main line near Plawsworth. The colliery closed in 1967 and the viaduct, once a familiar site to motorists, was demolished in 1972.

Kimblesworth mining village developed north of Kimblesworth Colliery, absorbing Tan Hill, or Tan Hills as it had come to be known.

Kimblesworth colliery village consisted of terrace streets like Charles Street, William Street and George Street.

In the 1950s and 1960s the terraces were no longer suitable for habitation and were slowly demolished. They were replaced with the council houses and bungalows we see today.

Some better-built terraces, formerly occupied by colliery officials, escaped demolition, as did Kimblesworth House, a larger building at the south end of the village.

Once the colliery manager’s house, it still overlooks the old colliery site and stands near a lane leading to Kimblesworth Grange.

Kimblesworth’s colliery owners established a school in Kimblesworth in 1878 that is now a home for old people.

Nettlesworth also had a Victorian school but this has gone. The present school, further to the east, dates from 1928.

Although the original Kimblesworth church fell into ruin in medieval times, new places of worship sprang up in the mining village during the Victorian era.

Wesleyan, Primitive and New Connexion Methodist chapels were built at Kimblesworth, Tan Hills and Nettlesworth respectively, but only Nettlesworth’s chapel survived, combining the three denominations.

Nettlesworth’s New Connexion worshippers were originally based next to the Black Bull Inn, but were uncomfortable with their close proximity to a pub and moved down the road later in the century.

Kimblesworth’s present parish church, dedicated to St Philip and St James, dates from 1893 and started life as a mission church.

It superseded an earlier mission house in Plawsworth’s Mill Lane.

Kimblesworth’s church incorporates a font rescued from the medieval church at Kimblesworth Grange.

Rather appropriately, it gives the Kimblesworth of today a spiritual link with the