History of Byers Green

& The Old Hall

The village name was first recorded in 1345 as Bires, the equivalent of the modern word byres and so Byers Green means ‘the green by the cowsheds’

In Bishop Hatfield’s survey of 1380  mention is made of Roger Trotter  as an exchequer  tenant  at Bires  and here begins the Trotter family link to Byers Green, and The Old Hall, which remained in the family’s possession until it’s sale in the 1940’s.

Originally named Byers Hall, then Byers Green Hall from the 16th century, the Grade 2 listed house stands in a three acre walled garden with mature trees on high ground on the north edge of the village adjacent to an ancient  hedged lane leading to what in the past was a ford on the River Wear giving access to Brancepeth Castle.

John Leland  (1503-15520) writes of coming this way in his ‘Itinery’ – “ From Binchester to Brancepeth 4 miles al by mountaine ground as is Akeland and not fertile of corn but welle woddid. Ar I cam by a mile or more to Brancepeth I passed by a ford over Were river”

It is difficult to date the origins of the building, but there is a suggestion small cobbling in the yard may date from Roman times. A pre 1600 structure is evident by the ground floor broad central stone wall, and an internal stone arch. Rebuilding was done in the early 17th century ,and then remodelling in the early 18th century, when a central staircase was added, and the building raised to 3 storeys with a pyramid roof as we see it today.

1 Old Hall Cottage is set at right – angles to the main house  and accessed from the old entrance to The Hall between 2 square piers with flat stone coping. Here the cottage wall, unlike the rest of the building, is built of Elizabethan brick laid in English garden bond over a stone plinth; a status symbol from a time when bricks were favoured over stone. The building in the past has been used as both a dwelling house and for agricultural purposes; also as a surgery for doctors who have lived and practised from The Old Hall since the early 19th century.

2 Old Hall Cottage built in stone with a pantile roof was the original stable block. The horse stalls and tethering rail have been retained, as has the stone block floor though now clad in wood for your comfort !

Hall Farm Cottage, across the lane, faces East; this was originally a stone built barn with exterior stone steps to the upper floor circa 17th century.

While Burkes Landed Gentry of 1894 suggests a distinguished pedigree for the Trotter family mainly through marriage, this was called into question soon after as having been invented by Henry John Trotter MP for Colchester in the mid 1850’s!

The family were continually in residence here until about the 1780’s when the house was purchased by the Shafto’s of Whitworth, the time of ‘Bonny Bobby Shafto’ and then repurchased  by H.J. Trotter MP  about 70 years later, though his local residence was Langton Grange, Darlington. The Trotter family, rather than being landed gentry, like the neighbouring familys of Salvin, and Shafto had the lower status of yeoman, ( commoners who farmed)  but had the means to construct and sustain a substantial house on the edge of the village over many centuries.

William Trotter 1638 – 1713 was buried in the garden, though the location is unknown as the  ‘monument ‘ to him was later  used to block  a wall at the farm. His coffin, unearthed in 1870 was said to have handles and ornaments made of silver.

From 1792  the Hall was used as a boarding school run by John Bowman educating James and John Taylor born in Jamaica, sons of a plantation owner and his enslaved housekeeper Mary Graham

The Trotter family did not live in the Hall after it was repurchased; rather it was the home to a succession of local doctors for almost a hundred years.

Maybe you or your relatives have connections to The Old Hall and its past inhabitants – I’d love to know  email hidden; JavaScript is required