Rivington School Papers

Scope and Content

The papers which came to Durham are concerned only with properties belonging to the school in the county of Durham and do not contain any accounts or material relating to the school itself.

They include a 20th century copy of Christopher Leven's grant of the above mentioned annuity to Pilkington from lands in Hetton le Hole (No. 30) and some material relating to the lands at Sedgefield (Nos. 31 and 32), Wharnley Burn (Nos. 85 and 86), Whickham (Nos. 87 and 88), Lynesack (No. 89) and Wolsingham (Nos. 90-96). Most of the collection, however, falls into three groups:

  • 1. Papers arising from lawsuits in the 17th century over the lands in Heighington (Nos. 1-29).
  • 2. Papers from similar lawsuits over the rent charge on lands at Silksworth (Nos. 33-84).
  • 3. Papers from an abortive attempt in the 19th century to sell property in Wolsingham to its tenant Mr Surtees (Nos. 90-135).

The lawsuits, which in both cases began about 1638 or 1639 and were not concluded until 1662 or 1663, reflect the problems encountered by the school in enforcing their rights. In the case of Heighington there was some doubt as to the school's title as the inhabitants of the township disputed the right of the Bishop to grant these lands to the School. At Silksworth the School's right to the rent charge was undisputed but, as the Middleton family had disposed of part of the lands on which the charge was laid, there was a dispute as to who was liable to pay the annual sum of £6.13.4d. By the time the case was settled, 24 years after George Middleton refused to pay any more, it was estimated that his son should pay the school £433.0.4d. for rent arrears, damages and costs.

By the mid 19th century the school's governors had sold many of the lands in Durham and invested the proceeds elsewhere. However, the attempt to sell Mr Surtees his lands at Wolsingham was frustrated by the refusal of the Charity Commissioners to sanction the sale, apparently because of objections raised by Revd. Thomas Sutcliffe, vicar of Rivington and later a governor of the School.

Administrative / Biographical History

Rivington Grammar School near Horwich, Lancashire, was founded by James Pilkington, Bishop of Durham, in 1566, its charter of foundation being dated 13 May 1566. On 6 September 1574 he endowed the school with annuities, copyhold lands and revenues to the value of £27.9.6d. most of which were in the county of Durham: annuities of £6.13.4d. from Christopher Leven's lands in Hetton le Hole, and £6.13.4d. from George Middleton's lands in Silksworth; copyhold lands and rents from Lynesack, Sedgefield, Wolsingham, Whickham, Heighington, Redworth, Stockton, Auckland and Stanhope. In 1875 the school was amalgamated with Blackrod Grammar School to form Rivington & Blackrod Grammar School (later Rivington and Blackrod High School).


The papers are grouped according to place, and then arranged chronologically.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Presented by the Headmaster of the School, 1938.

Other Finding Aids

Available online at online catalogue

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

Durham Bishopric Halmote Court Records: contain some documents relating to land held in Co. Durham by the school.


Kay, M.M., The history of Rivington and Blackrod Grammar School (Manchester, 1931)