South Durham Deeds

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 33 SDD
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3 metres

Scope and Content

The collection falls into two parts:

  • (1) 265 documents (1602-1927) arranged in two sections: deeds relating to property (205 documents); personal deeds and papers (60 documents). The collection is predominantly 17th - mid 19th century. The property deeds concern approximately 55 places in County Durham, especially Darlington and Cockerton, and 6 in Northumberland, Shropshire and Yorkshire. The personal documents are largely wills, probates, letters of administration, and documents concerning debt and bankruptcy.
  • (2) Appendix: 41 documents (1590-1841) arranged in two sections: deeds relating to property (32 documents); personal deeds and papers (9 documents) acquired later (see Immediate source of acquisition). The property deeds concern 21 places in County Durham, especially Darlington and Cockerton. The personal documents largely relate to probate matters. Many of the property deeds, and some of the personal documents are concerned with the same properties and individuals as the main collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

An artificially created collection (see under source of acquisition) which presumably came from one or more firms of solicitors. The solicitor believed to have owned the bulk of these documents was Edward Wooler of the firm Wooler and Wooler whose offices were at 36, Priestgate, Darlington. The extent of his connection with the collection is, however, unclear. Some of the material certainly belonged to him, but subsequently passed into the possession of a second hand book dealer called John Cresswell Brigham, and it may not now be possible to determine how much of the collection was made by Wooler and how much by Brigham.

Edward Wooler was already in practice in 1879 and continued for at least another forty six years until some time between 1925 and 1934, probably about 1927. In the early decades of this century he was a Councillor on Darlington Borough Council, being Chairman of the School Board and, later, Alderman. He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and wrote at least two works: Historic Darlington, a text book for school children written in conjunction with a colleague, and The Roman Fort at Piercebridge. His connection with this collection is established by a small packet of documents relating to the history of the Bull Inn.

There are pencil notes on many of the deeds. Most of them only indicate place, but some go further and contain comments such as: contains a fine list of Autographs etc. of Darlington tradespeople and, on the Probate of the Will of Robert Colling of Barmpton the noted shorthorn breeder. These notes show that the documents have been in the hands of a local historian or a dealer, but whether they were made by Wooler or Brigham is debateable. We cannot know for certain whether John Cresswell Brigham purchased this collection, at the sale at Edward Wooler's house in October 1927, or only the packet relating to the Bull Inn.

John Cresswell Brigham was also well known as an antiquarian. As well as his shop at 26, Conniscliffe Road he had a private museum and on his death in 1935 or 1936 the John Cresswell Brigham Collection was bought by Darlington Public Library. By this time it seems to have consisted mainly of volumes, both printed and in manuscript, divided into three groups relating to Darlington, Durham and Yorkshire respectively. It does not appear to have included deeds.

The business at Conniscliffe road was transferred to R.J. Scott and was still trading under that name in 1973. No correspondence has been found in the surviving University Library administrative files for any purchase or donation of this material from Edward Wooler, John Cresswell Brigham or R.J. Scott.


The sections containing property deeds are arranged by county and then place, the sections containing personal deeds and papers are arranged by person, in alphabetical order.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Acquired in the late 1930s, or early 1940s, reputedly from a Darlington solicitor. Four small groups were added later from the same sources as Darlington Turnpike Deeds, in four groups: pre 1950, source unknown; bought from McDowell & Stern of York, and M. Finlay, both in 1981; by exchange from Durham County Record Office.

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue available 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 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

Darlington Turnpike Deeds (shared provenance).