Local History

Whitburn is a vibrant coastal village, filled with history.


From Ancient Times....


The earliest mention of Whitburn dates back to the "Boldon Buke" of 1183, as "Whitbern" and was probably an Anglo-Saxon settlement.


There have been earlier finds of prehistoric and Roman material in the area of the village and it's fields, however the village itself is of medieval origin. The layout of the settlement, with two rows of properties either side of the village green is typical of those planned by the Normans in the 12th Century, following their subjugation of the north of England.


The only major medieval survival is the parish church, with the present building probably being early 13th century. It has a number of medieval grave slabs built into it's exterior on the south and east corners, and a stone coffin just outside the south wall. It also notably has two medieval bells in a medieval frame, a rare survival.


The historic Whitburn Hall would go on to occupy the former position of a number of medieval farmsteads. Whitburn Hall was built in the 16th century for Richard Kitching, who sold it to Rev. Leonard Pilkington, rector of Whitburn Church in 1672. Sir Hedworth Williamson then purchased the home in 1719 and it remained the family home of the aristocratic Williamsons for just over 200 years. In 1978 it was sadly damaged by fire and demolished. Some of the buildings around the garden still exist today.


......To a coal mining community.


In 1874 Marsden Pit was sunk and the community increased dramatically as a result. Marsden Village stood to the south of Marsden Bay and just north of Souter Lighthouse. It was built by the Whitburn Coal Company to house men of the newly sunk Marsden colliery. Marsden Village had a short life, less than 90 years from the sinking of the pit to its demolition in the early 1960’s. Quite simply the village vanished because it was one of County Durham’s notorious category D villages.

The Durham County Development Plan of 1951 classified mining villages as an A, B, C or D settlement, and it was the category D villages where no future development would be permitted and all properties in the settlements would be acquired and demolished.

The following extract is taken from the 1951 County Development plan (Durham Records Office) "MARSDEN -- This village is badly sited in an exposed position alongside colliery workings. Much of the property is in poor physical condition and few social facilities exist. It is therefore included in Category D." Whitburn Colliery finally closed in 1968, and the land is now a coastal park and nature reserve.


And into Modernity....


Today, seaside tourism is the Village's mainstay, with visitor attractions like Whitburn beach to enjoy stunning scenery and rare limestone rock formations, or take the children to Cornthwaite Park where they can make the most of the play park and natural greenery.


Information gathered from resources from our wide selection of local interest books and with help from J. Beveridge, Tees Archeology, Boldon History, Whitburn Village Heritage Society, and Sunderland Antiquarian Society. You can find further information here: