Two miles to the East of Merrington, a considerable village on the great North road. This is a member of the manor of Merrington. The Convent had here at an early date their Court-house, Curia; their Chapel, infra Curiam, dedicated to St. Ebbe and St. Nicholas; and their wood, marsh, swannery, and fish-pool. The situation has been already partially described (fn. 30) . The village occupies the same lofty ridge with Merrington, and commands a portion of the same extended prospect. A quarter of a mile to the East of the village the ridge terminates; its steep declivity is covered with the remains of the old wood of Ferry, down to the edge of the marsh, which, sweeping round the base of the hill Southward, and then Westward, divides the ancient estate of the Church from the free vills of Mainsforth and Thrislington. By various grants, of which, perhaps, the most important is the charter stated under Thrislington (fn. 31) , by much the greater portion of the marsh became the property of the Church. The dam-head of their swan-pool was where the present forced road from Ferry-hill to Mainsforth crosses the marsh (fn. 32) , and the remains of the old swan-house, now a sort of troglodyte building half practised in the rock, still exist on the South-eastern point of the hill (fn. 33) . An old grey stone (fn. 34) (said to be the remnant of a cross,) on the height of the hill near the farm of Cleves-cross (fn. 35) , is said to commemorate the successful adventure of Roger de Fery.

The Boar or Brawn of Brancepath was a formidable animal, which made his lair on Brandon-hill, and walked the forest in ancient undisputed sovereignty from the Wear to the Gaunless. The marshy, and then woody vale, extending from Croxdale to Ferry-wood, was one of the brawn's favourite haunts, affording roots and mast, and the luxurious pleasure of volutation. Near Cleves-cross, Hodge, of Ferry, after carefully marking the boar's track, dug a pitfall, slightly covered with boughs and turf, and then toling on his victim by some bait to the treacherous spot, stood armed with his good sword across the pitfall,—

“At once with hope and fear his heart rebounds.”

At length the gallant brute came trotting on his onward path, and seeing the passage barred, rushed headlong on the vile pitfall. The story has nothing very improbable (fn. 36) , and something like real evidence still exists. According to all tradition, the rustic champion of Cleves sleeps beneath a coffin-shaped stone in Merrington Church-yard, rudely sculptured with the instruments of his victory, a sword and spade on each side of a cross. It was not unusual, either in England or abroad, when a man had slain a boar, wolf, or spotted pard, to bear the animal (fn. 37) as an armorial ensign in his shield. The seal of Roger de Ferie still remains in the Treasury, exhibiting his old antagonist, a boar passant. The seal of Maude his daughter, wife of Alan of Merrington, has the boar's head couped.

Omnibus, &c. Rogerus de Ferie, Sal. Noverit universitas vestra me concessisse, &c. dilectis Dominis meis Priori et Conventui Dunelm. totam culturam meam in villa de Ferie que jacet propinquior Porte Curie predictor. Dominor. meor. in eadem villa. T. Waltro de Ferie, Alano de Pitingdun, Jolie Longo, Witto fil. Turstani, Witto genero Turstani, Robto Capellano de Merington, Witto de Biscoptun, Robto de Birkinside, et multis aliis.

Sciant, &c. qd ego Matilda quondam uxor Alani de Merington, dedi, &c. Waltro filio Emme, in libero maritagio cum Iveta filia mea duodecim acras (fn. 38) terre in campo de Ferie, cum tophto et crophto. T. Dno Witto Vic. de Merigtun, Witto Clerico de Fery (fn. 39) .


A mass of charters in the Treasury relate merely to transactions betwixt the Church and their tenants (fn. 40) ; or contain releases of common, or grants of small portions of the marsh from neighbouring proprietors, for enlarging the Monks' swannery. Richard, son of Sir John of Chylton, granted to St. Cuthbert and to Prior Hugh, all his land and marsh betwixt the High-street, which leads from Fery to Middleham, and the wood and marsh of the Convent, which lies on the North of Mainsforth-mere. Hugh Gubyoun, Knight, lord of Tudhow, released all common of pasture in Fery, Kirk Merynton, Midlest Merington (fn. 41) , and West Merington (fn. 41) , in 1303 (fn. 42) . A similar release occurs from Peter of Trillesden, and another from Christian, daughter of Isabel Kellaw, of Hette, of all common right in Spennyngmor, viz. in Fery, and the Merringtons, 1329. Thomas de Bonevill and Alice his wife release all their land of Thurstantun (fn. 43) , et nominatim, one acre and a half which lies within the enclosure of Fery-mere, infra clausuram Stagni de Fery. Some early agreements occur relative to coal. In 1354 Thomas, fil. Richard de Fery, leases to John, Prior of Durham, all his coals and seams of coal in the North part of the vill of Fery, viz. in those lands which lie betwixt the King's High Street from Durham to Ferry South, and the path called Hopesiderode East, for thirty years, with licence to sink pits and drifts for carrying off water (fn. 44) , and with sufficient way-leave (fn. 45) ; and the Prior bargains, that during the same term Thomas and his heirs shall have one half cart load (fn. 46) of coals every week in which coals shall be there won and worked.

Alice, widow of Richard de Fery, released this same coal district, and her dower or life-rent of four marks, to the Prior in 1354.

The following evidence explains something of the customary tenures and services under the Prior:

Thomas the Prior, &c. to Robert de Fery and his heirs, we grant three oxgangs and one toft and croft, to hold under 10s. rent; and at Boonherc, if he have a whole draught, he shall plough and harrow two acres; and if he have half a draught, one acre. He shall work four days in each year with a one-horse harrow; and then he shall have his meat once in the day, and a sheaf of oats at even-tide; and he shall mow four days in harvest, and during those four days shall find one man to look to the mowers, ad custodiendum Messores, and he shall work at Manor-mill (fn. 47) , and shall pay the thirteenth part multure, and shall give merchet and heriet and metrich (fn. 48) and aid, when an aid is laid on the Churche's lands, and shall follow the Prior's Court of Pleas (fn. 49) .

As to the Chapel of St. Nicholas and St. Ebbe, Henry de Ferie, Parson of Heighington, for the good estate of his own soul, and for the rest of Bartram II. (fn. 50) sometime Prior of Durham, assigned fourteen shillings issuing out of the house of Henry, the taillour, (which is next the house of Master Arnald de Auclent,) and one house purchased from WalterdeHeth, in Millnpath, and two tofts purchased of Ralph Pinchegambun and Bertram his son, near St. Oswald's Church, for the support of one Chaplain celebrating in the Chapel of St. Nicholas and St. Ebbe, in Ferie (fn. 51) , within the Court-house of the Prior; the same fourteen shillings to be paid for this behoof to the Almoner of the House of Durham. And the said Almoner shall satisfy to the heirs of Alan de Bruntoft (for Henry the taillour's house) a pair of gilt spurs or a groat on the Feast of St. Cuthbert, in September; and one penny to Walter de Heth; and for the two tofts to the Hostillar of Durham, twelvepence. Witness, Richard Vicar of Acle, Jordan Hairun, Adam the Chaplain, and William de Ferie (fn. 52) .

The freeholds in Ferry-hill are not considerable, either in number or extent. The old name of Ferry occurs at a late date. By Ind. 25 Nov. 17 Eliz. George Ferrey, yeoman, grants all his lands in Ferry-on-the-hill to Thomas Lambton, of New Malton, Gent. By Ind. 10 Nov. 18 Eliz. Thomas Millot, of Mayland, Esq. for 120l. grants his lands in Ferry-on-the-hill to Robert Hull, of Ousterley, Gent.

The chief mansion-house in Ferry-hill, a spacious gavel-ended house, with a large pleasant garden, laid out in regular walks and parterres, with hedges of clipped evergreens, was the residence of the Shawes. This is now Mr. Arrowsmith's, and to it is attached the beautiful plot of dry pasturage on the Southern slope of the hill, the ancient Mill-close.

The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham: volume 3:

Author ..Robert Surtees

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