Brandon and Byshottles Parish History

Brandon and Byshottles was originally one of the seven townships within the ancient Parish of Brancepeth, and grew from a sparcely-populated agricultural area into a populous mining district after the establishment of collieries and, later on, coke and fireclay works.

Until the 19th century Brandon village, formally known as East Brandon, was one of the larger settlements in Brancepeth Parish. Brandon was also a manor of the medieval Lordship of Brancepeth and as such was possessed by the Neville family, the Earls of Westmoreland. Areas such as Holywell, Langley, Littleburn and other localities were the sites of large freehold gentry houses

1569-Rising Of The North

After the Rising of the North in 1569 (one of whose leaders was Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmoreland), Elizabeth 1st confiscated Brancepeth Castle and its territories. These were administered as Crown Lands until the 1620s and were plundered by a series of courtiers and Royal leases. Finally these lands were conveyed to the City of London in 1628-29, when Charles 1st was forced to redeem his debts to the city.

The Brancepeth lands were then broken up in a series of sales to London merchants and financiers who in turn resold them to local buyers at high profits. The one exception to this was Brandon manor, which remained in the hands of its London buyer, Edward Cropley. A silk merchant, Cropley bought the whole estate of Brandon manor for £1,700 in 1630, and his family held onto the property till 1710.

The 1800s

It was then conveyed to the Earl of Shaftsbury and remained in his family until the 1800s. In 1796 William Russell, a retired coal mine owner from Tyneside, spent part of his fortune on buying and renovating Brancepeth Castle. He set about repurchasing as much as possible of the old lordship broken up in the sales of the 1630s.

In 1806, he purchased the Brandon estate from the then Earl of Shaftsbury for £105,000. Russell's granddaughter married into the Irish peerage, and the name Hamilton-Russell and the title 'Viscount Boyne' became connected with the district.

Parish Population Fluctuations

In 1801, the Brandon and Byshottles population was 522. In 1811 this had shrunk to 435. There was a further decline in population during the 1830's due to the removal of workmen, who had been engaged on the rebuilding and enlargement of Brancepeth Castle with the population falling to 427. The stone for this bulding work had been quarried in Brandon Village and Sawmills lane is thought to have been constructed as a more direct route for the carting of stone to Brancepeth. Following this decline, there was a population upsurge, with numbers soaring to 14,240 in 1891.


It was to be the 1850s when the area was to experience further dramatic change, as the iron and manufacturing industries began to require coal and coke in ever-increasing quantities. The entrepreneurial Newcastle firm of Straker and Love obtained the site that was to become Brandon Colliery, sinking the 'A' shaft in 1856 and the 'C' pit in 1860. By 1894, 1150 men and boys worked seams of coal in Hutton, Busty, and Brockwell. Brandon Pit house was sunk in 1924. Coal mining in the area finally came to an end in 1968.

Other firms arrived to take leases. Bell Brothers of Newcastle and Middlesbrough commenced sinking at Browney Colliery in 1871, with coal being drawn in 1873 from three shafts working the Brockwell, Busty, and Hutton seams. The firm was taken over by Dorman Long & Co. Ltd. in 1923; in 1930, 625 were employed at the colliery.

In 1931, the company went into liquidation, and the pit was re-opened on a smaller scale by Bearpark Coal and Coke Co. Ltd. to work the busty seam, until flooding from the river Browney forced its closure in December 1950.

It was in May 1877 under a newly confirmed provisional order that Brandon and Byshottles Parish was formed into a local government district administered by a local board. Marking the final breakaway from the Parish of Brancepeth, the local board was superceded by the forming of the Urban District Council after the passing of the Local Government Act of 1894.

The Brandon and Byshottles Urban District Council continued until it was amalgamated with Durham City and Durham Rural Councils to form the City of Durham District Council in 1974. The Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council today administers the area.

Archived images of Brandon and Byshottles

We have a few archived images of the parish and would love to build this collection of images on the website. Do you have any old images of your parish and would like them added to the archived images gallery? 

Visit the Image Gallery to view the archived images and for further information on the required format before contacting the Parish Clerk with any images for consideration..

Top of page