Littleburn, Holywell and Nafferton (Brancepeth) Deeds

Scope and Content

Deeds relating to the Littleburn, Holywell and Nafferton estates in the parish of Brancepeth, County Durham, all of which had come into the ownership of the Russell family of Brancepeth Castle, County Durham by the 19th century: 

  • SGD 54/1-20B:- Deeds chiefly relating to the vill and manor of Littleburn, early 13th century - 1587. In addition there are references to the adjacent manor of Burnhall alias Great Burn (now Burn Hall), also in Brancepeth parish, 1307-1587 (in chronogical order SGD 54/1, 8, 12, 18, 9, 19 and 20B), to Willington, County Durham, 13th century (in chronological order SGD 54/17, 5 and 16) and to properties in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, 1486 and 1501 (SGD 54/8 and 15).
  • SGD 54/21-86:- Chiefly deeds relating to Holywell alias Hallywell, 1623-1817, and Nafferton alias New Nafferton, 1691-1804, but also including some items concerning Littleburn alias Burnhall, 1623-1877. In addition there are odd items referring to other areas, e.g. Benknowle, Bishop Middleham, Brandon, Edmondsley, Elwick, Hart, Hoggs House, Hulam Moor, Iveston alias Ivesly, Lanchester, Layton, Mordon, Quarrell Hill, Sedgefield, Stranton, Waterhouses and Willington, all in County Durham, Nafferton Hall in Ovingham parish, Northumberland, and Eryholme, Newton Hanzard and Stokesley in Yorkshire.
  • SGD 54/87:- Miscellanea, 1960s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lying so close together Littleburn, Holywell and Nafferton in Brancepeth parish, County Durham have sometimes come under common ownership and sometimes been held separately. These deeds are grouped together now because by the 18th century the properties had all come into the ownership of the Reed family of Durham City and in the 19th century were all sold by them to the Russell family (subsequently the Hamilton-Russell family, Viscounts Boyne).

Littleburn: A number of 13th, 14th and 15th-century owners are mentioned in the deeds and the manor was sometimes held in two moities. Between 1355 and 1433 the Kilhams are mentioned in the deeds, to be replaced in 1486 by the Mountforts. The Calverley family, which provided several stewards for the bishops of Durham, had an interest in this property from ca.1587 until at least 1660. After that shares in the title were fragmented until in 1706 the Doubleday family bought it. About fifty years later (deed missing) it was purchased by the Reed family who already owned Holywell. By 1856 it had been acquired by the Russell family.

Holywell: for the ownership of Holywell prior to 1623, when this series of deeds begins, see the introduction to the catalogue of the contents of SGD 54. In 1623 Holywell was sold by the Frevilles to William Baxter of Whitworth, County Durham, who in 1629 sold it on to a branch of the Swinburne family. The Swinburnes were prominent recusants and therefore at times subject to legal threats to their properties, sometimes alleviated by judicious use of trustees. The Swinburnes held Holywell until 1749, during which period it passed through the hands of a range of trustees and mortgagees, as these documents attest. In 1749 it was purchased by John Reed of Framwellgate, Durham City, and in 1804 his descendants sold it to William Russell, who had recently bought Brancepeth Castle.

Nafferton: Nafferton alias New Nafferton, first features in these deeds in 1691. It may have been built by the Swinburnes, perhaps as a dower house, and was called after Nafferton in Ovingham parish, Northumberland, with which the Swinburnes had connections. It was sold to John Reed by the Swinburnes in 1749 at the same time as Holywell.

This collection was formerly known as the Leybourne deeds.


Items 1-20B have been listed in chronological but not numerical order; the system of numeration devised for these items prior to their receipt by the University of Durham (written on the dorse of the deeds) has been retained (except for the numbers 6 and 11, which have been allotted to previously unnumbered items).

Items 21-87 have been arranged, numbered and listed in chronological order.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Deposited (except for items 34 and 41) with the Department of Palaeography and Diplomatic of the University of Durham (since 1990 part of the Archives and Special Collections department of Durham University Library) in ca.1968 by Mrs. M. Leybourne of Holywell Hall, Brancepeth, Co. Durham. In 1978, when Mrs. Leybourne sold Holywell Hall, she made the deposit into a donation and added items 34 and 41 to it.


Part of : Small Gifts & Deposits

Other Finding Aids

An item-level catalogue of the contents of SGD 54, with an abbreviated version of the introduction, is available: online catalogue

Alternative Form Available

Durham Dean and Chapter Library: Longstaffe MSS include transcripts of most of the early Littleburn deeds in SGD 54 and of one or two others which have not survived in this collection.

Separated Material

Durham County Record Office: Hamilton-Russell family, Viscounts Boyne, of Brancepeth, County Durham Papers (title deeds, estate papers, family and legal papers, 1506-1961).

Custodial History

The donor, Mrs. Leybourne, had been given the deeds when the Brancepeth Castle estate was being sold off in parts and the estate office cleared after the 1939-1945 war, presumably at the same time as she purchased Holywell Hall.


Surtees, R., The history and antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham , 4, ed. by J. Raine (1840), part 2, 17, note b