Barforth Chapel Garth

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Questionable Fortified Manor House

There are earthwork remains

NameBarforth Chapel Garth
Alternative NamesOld Richmond; Barford
Historic CountryDurham
Modern AuthorityDurham
1974 AuthorityCounty Durham
Civil ParishBarforth

It is probable that, in the Saxon period, there was a place of defence at this important ford; called the Old Garths, are those of dwellings which arose around the Chieftain's Castle on the Chapel Garth. (The foundations on the Chapel Garth are more spacious than village walls, and probably are of a castellated dwelling designed for Barforth Hall.) The situation of the chapel is one which would very naturally have been chosen, close to the walls of the castle, and separated from the village by the small stream as we now find it. (MacLauchlan)

Barforth on Tees: A deserted Medieval village consisting of a ruined church (NZ 11 NE 37), earthworks of streets and crofts, and a dovecote (NZ 11 NE 38), situated on a scarp overlooking the River Tees. Barforth Hall (NZ 11 NE 34) is farther to the north (164 167). This may be the "Brieforde" where depopulation was reported in 1517. Mentioned in Domesday Book and between 1301 and 1334. Barford has long been called Old Richmond, erroneously, as the original seat of the earls of Bretagne and Richmond was at Gilling to the south (Beresford; Cade).

On the mound called the "Chapel Garth" has probably stood a castle or watch tower to defend the passage of a paved road across the Tees at Boat House. The village of Barford was situated beyond the stream to the west where foundations, called Old Garths, are still visible. The origin of the name "Old Richmond" is probably due to "de Roaldo de Richmond" being named as holding Berford or Berforth in Kirkby's Inquisition in 1287 (MacLauchlan).

Many undressed stones were encountered when ploughing the eastern part of the fields to the west of St Lawrence's Chapel (NZ 11 NE 37). (Centred NZ 16441621). The earthworks are typical of a deserted village and consist of banked enclosures with smaller enclosures and platforms representing the buried foundations of buildings. The banks vary in height from 0.3 m to 1 m. The whole area is under pasture

The main earthworks are situated to the north of St Lawrence's Chapel with only slight trace at the east end of the area. The earthworks are incorrectly shown on OS 6" and the site will require assistance when re-survey takes place (F1 EGGeary/28-MAY-1954/OS Archaeology Division Field Investigator).

The remains in the area published as "Old Richmond" cannot be described as typical of a deserted Medieval village; rather, they would appear to be those of a manorial complex, including a possible fishpond at NZ 16461622, as well as the dovecote (NZ 11 NE 38) and St Lawrence's Chapel (NZ 11 NE 37). Any village which may have existed probably occurred to the west of the small stream as suggested by McLauchlan, although no trace now remains (F2 DSmith/14-MAR-1973/OS Archaeology Division Field Investigator).

Extending north from the chapel, (NZ 11 NE 37), are the remains of a number of rectangular buildings, mostly within a perimeter earthwork, and a possible pond to the east. At NZ 1641 1629 is a three-celled building on the steep north-facing slope outside the boundary earth-work. No entrances or internal features are visible but some wall faces are showing. The walls stand up to 0.3 m high generally but the platform to the north is 1.5 m high and stony. A building at NZ 1638 1625 is about 28 m long but has no apparent internal divisions. A break on the south side might be an entrance but looks more like disturbance. A stony mound on the north side may be debris from the adjacent quarry scoop. The walls of this building are up to 0.4 m high. At NZ 1637 1622 are the slight remains of a building possibly straddling the perimeter earthwork. The west wall of this building stands up to 0.7 m high but the rest is slight and lost in rank vegetation. At NZ 1642 1624 is a building about 24 m long, again with no apparent sub-divisions and no sign of an entrance. The walls of this building stand about 0.3 m high. The boundary earthwork is an outward-facing scarp up to 1.5 m high. At NZ 1646 1623 is the possible pond. It is 0.4 m deep to the north and over 2 m deep to the south and its east end is disturbed. Aerial photographs show further earthworks in the centre of the site but at the time of the field visit most of this area was obscured by thick vegetation (Mark Bowden/03-SEP-1991/RCHME: Durham SAMs Project). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

The earthworks and remains at St Lawrence Chapel, Barforth seem to have been complex and open to some various interpretations although a manorial complex seems most likely. It may be there has been some loss in the 150+ years since MacLauchlan wrote but it does not seem likely there was even a significant fortified site here and his description seems exaggerated to support his more general thesis about the Scots Dyke.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ164162
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  • Beresford, M.W., 1955, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 38 p. 294
  • MacLauchlan, H., 1849, 'On the Roman roads, camps, and other earthworks, between the Tees and the Swale, in the North Riding of the County of York' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 6 p. 225, 335 online copy
  • Cade, J. 1789, 'Some observations on the Roman station Cataractonium with an account of Antiquities in the neighbourhood of Piersbridge and Gainford' Archaeologia Vol. 9 p. 282 online copy