The Impending sale of "Cockerton Hall" the Georgian residence at the
entrance to the village. has set
the villagers wondering what will be done with this interesting mansion which for many generations was considered as
the Manor House of the township of Cockerton. This desirable site.
with dwelling house, was probably owned by the Lordly Nevilles ot Raby in the
Lord John Neville. the reputed builder of the Cast1e who died in
1389 Owned a messuage and four oxgangs in Cockerton. The last
Neville of Raby. Charles. the sixth Earl of Westmorland was dettained
for his disloyalty In the Rebellion of the North in 1569, and at the
inquest on his estates, there is mention of a tenement In Cockerton.
Wrting over a century ago. Surtees mentioned the NevIlle House of 1683,
which at that time, was occupied by the Garth family.
In the beginning, of the 18th century there were two domiciles,
and the Durham Court Rolls contain Items relating to several Quaker
famIies who shared the property, which was copyhold In the Episcopal Manor of Bondgate, Joseph Fisher, a Quaker, lived in the eastern part of the building. nearest to the Pack horse Bridge.
In May, l700. he surrendered- according to custom of the
manor a dwelling
house and garden abutting and the common street on the east and north to William
Goldsborough, also a Quaker, who seems to have occupied the western
wing of the property at that time
The Quaker faith had only recently been introduced into the area, and as both
these Quakers attended local conventicles, and suffered heavily for their non-conformity. it is quite probable that the Old Hall was the scene of some
of these clandestine religious gatherings.
William Goldsborough's daughter-in-law, Anne and his two
grand-daughters, Mary & Elizabeth, surrendered the property to William
Wrightson of Middleton-One-Row in April 1745, William Wrightson who was a
son of Neasham Wrightson's, had recently married Miss Beckett, daughter of
the Rector of Kirby Wiske, and he broughyt his bride to "Cockerton
House" as the mansion was then called.
Mr, Wrightson was a wea1thv gentleman and a leading official
at St. Cuthbert's Church. He lived at Cockerton for 60 years and became known
as 'The Squire of Cockerton."
He is credited with having demolished the western portion of the
mansion, and building the .present structure with Its Georgion pillared doorway.
series of segmentalheaded windows.
He died in April, 1806. aged 92. and was buried in Long Newton
churchyard, where a ponderous table tombstone marks his last resting
W, Wrightson had one daughter, Nanny, who was born in 1750. In -
July. 1794, she married John Garth,a well-known North country
professional musician. who .was then 72 years of age, Garth. who was : a member of
an old established Weardale family. spent. the remaining 16 years of his life at
Cockerton. He died in 1810 1eaving much property at Witton-le-Wear to his
The late, Miss Edleston. at Gainford a wel1 known antiquarian .
once told me that Garth's .'Rondo" was a favorite piece of music in
the drawing rooms of the early , Victorian era.
One Interesting feature, recalling Garth's residence at the .'Hall:'
is the old notice board on the apple and potato shed. It is now
.illegible. but was a warning to Cockerton pilferers as, follows: ~
"Whoever commits any willful Trespass in this Plantation and Garden or
around this P1ace. will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of
the law, and a reward, and a reward of 5 guineas will be .paid. by Mr.Garth,to
anyone making discovery of the Offenders on their being
Hoard of Money
Mrs Garth who was one of the richest women in the district,
continued to live at the Hall, and was, "lady Bountiful" to the
village during the reigns of the last Georges, She had one of the
only two private carriages the town at the time, and In memory
of her husband she provided three Almshouses on Cockerton Green.
for three poor widows. She died in December, 1829. leaving all her
property, including Cockerton House to hee nephew, Richard Wrightson
of Haughton-le-Skerne. The day after Mrs Garth's death. Wrightson and his
wife Henrietta took up their abode in the Hall.
On looking through the various rooms Wrightson discovered a hoard of notes and gold and silver coins,
The amount was stated to be about £8,000.
No doubt somewhat nervous at having so much money in the house.
Wrightson procured a large butter basket and after filling it with notes,
golden guineas and silver coins, he covered the contents with a white cloth
and ordered his man servant, George Hind, to carry the basket along Woodland Road
to Backhouses Bank on the High Row.
Taking down his gun Wrightson said he wou1d follow on, in case anyone
tried to molest Hind. When they reached the bank, the clerk, Nathaniel Plews
(who later became a wealthy Brewer in the town) found that the basket contained over £8,000..
Cockerton Will Case
Wrightson did not enjoy his newly acquired wealth for long
He died in November,1830, and his will left his estate to his wife, Eliza Henrietta, who, in
June, 1831, married Thomas Topham. It was this will drawn up by by Francis Mewburn who became the Chief baillif of Darlington
1846 that was the casus-belli for the important Cockerton Will Case which aroused national interest in 1844 and l850.
Had Wrightson died intestate, his estates according to the
custom of the ancient Manor of Bondgate would have gone to his
only sister Cordellia, who was married to Patrick McGregor.
The Macgregors were greatly upset at being shut out from any
benefit of the will and some years later they insisted that the will
was a false and pretended document, and that Wrightson had not
been Compos mentis, at the time It was made.
After much preliminary legal maneuvering the case was tried at
Durham Spring Assizes in March.
1844. The trial lasted three days and after a masterly summing up
by Justice Rolfe, the jury upheld the validity of the will.
The newspaper reports of the trial are of great interest to local
historians. Among the 33 Witnesses. were many solicitors, doctors and tradesmen
from Darlington and Cockerton; who had dealings
with Wrightson at the time of the alleged will
Dissatisfied with the verdict, the Macgregor's carried the case to the
House of Lords, where in July 185O, Lord BroughRm delivered the considered judgment of several of his colleagues, upholding
the verdict of the Durham Jury six years previously.