Dufton Village History

The origins of Dufton are not certain, but the Eden Valley in general was populated in Roman times with many small scattered settlements and farmsteads consisting of stone huts and enclosures often found on the higher land. There is an example of such a settlement at Castle Hill 1½ miles to the south of the village.

There are two possible explanations for the name of the village. It could derive from Old English meaning “dove farm or settlement”, or the first part could be a personal name Duff. The Old English suffix ‘tun’ now ‘ton’ suggests an early foundation from the late seventh century until the twelfth century. The present layout of the village suggests it was established in its present form by the medieval period.

The village has no church within its confines. The Parish Church of St Cuthbert is ¾ mile north west of the village between Dufton and Knock. Re-used fabric indicates the existence of a twelfth century church at this site, supposedly built on one of the many resting sites of St Cuthbert’s body that had been carried by the Lindisfarne monks fleeing from the Vikings during the late ninth century. The church is believed to have been rebuilt in 1784 and again in 1853. The chapel in the village was built as a Primitive Methodist Church in 1905.

In the medieval period the area was surrounded by forest used for hunting and timber. In the early part of the thirteenth century the manor belonged to the Greystokes, from whom it passed in marriage to the Dacres of Gilsland. Afterwards it was owned by Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, whose grandson Henry granted a lease of the lordship for ninety-nine years to Sir Christopher Clapham in the seventeenth century. Clapham took advantage of an omission in the lease and cut down and sold the whole of Dufton Wood, making more from the timber than he had paid for the whole of Dufton. The lordship was subsequently purchased by John Winder, Esq. and in 1785 it was sold to the Earl of Thanet.

No medieval structures are known to survive in the village although their fabric may be incorporated into some of the seventeenth and eighteenth century remodelled buildings. The plan form of the village displays strong medieval characteristics, suggesting medieval buildings have been rebuilt or remodelled within their existing locations. Dufton Hall, which dates at least from the seventeenth century and possibly the sixteenth, is thought to have been the site of the Manor House. The other oldest surviving buildings date from the seventeenth and early eighteenth onwards.

St John Boste was born in Dufton in about c1544. He later became a Catholic Priest and was martyred when he was executed at Bryburn, Durham in 1594. He was canonized in 1970.

Although there was some lead mining activity in the North Pennines in the medieval period, it only became established as an industry in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before declining in the nineteenth century. The Quaker owned London Lead Company controlled the mines in the Dufton area from the eighteenth century onwards. As well as developing the mines, it also developed mine workers cottages and farmsteads. The company had a smelt-mill to the south of the village and it built a water supply system in the form of a syke, which is still visible on the south side of the village green, and later a piped supply with supply points and central fountain/trough erected in the late nineteenth century.


Mention must be made of this Quaker-run philanthropic mining company which was active in the northern Pennines during the 19th century. Lead is found in conjunction with the limestone in the area. It was in increasing demand with the rapid expansion of towns during the 19th century for pipes as well as for use in industry – paints for example. The London Lead Company was largely responsible for the layout of the village as it is now. Older properties were incorporated into the planned scheme of housing for the miners, surveyors, overseers and other officials. Dates and styles of 19th century buildings are easily seen. There are four small water fountains in the village so that no-one had too far to go to a tap. The ‘fountain’ on the green was originally a horse trough. A smelt mill was situated in the Ghyll, near the new footbridge, and wood for use in the mine workings came from the Ghyll. As cheaper lead was found elsewhere, the population dropped in Dufton leaving farming as the main employment.


(provided about 1858 by a Mr Wallace, of the London Lead Company, which formerly worked mines in the area)


“There is a clear pool, whose waters gleam like silver. It is not tainted by the shepherds, or by their she-goats grazing on the mountain. Nor is it muddied by cattle, or by birds or wild animals, or by a branch fallen from a tree”.

Fons est inlimis, nitidis argenteus undis

Quem necque pastores nec pastae monte capellae

Inficiunt. Aliudve pecus: quem nulla volucris

Nec fera perturbat: nec lapsus ab arbore ramus

(taken, but slightly altered, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Bk.III. This is the story of Narcissus, a handsome youth who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. Unable to move from the spot, he pined away and was turned into the flower which bears his name).