The Deanery

The Deanery was located just to the east of the Parish Church, on land now occupied by Park View School. The Parish Church of St. Mary & St. Cuthbert was an important church having a similar administrative organisation to that of a cathedral for much of its history. At the head of the Church was a Dean who lived in the Deanery and some kind of house existed here before Henry the VIII’s religious reforms in the 16th Century. After the reformation process a lay Dean was appointed and the Deanery then became a non-religious establishment.

View of the Deanery c.1890

Edward Johnson often presided in the Lambton Arms where he dispensed summary justice. However, there was an episode in his life which eventually became well reported:

On 9th July 1834, Edward Johnson of the Deanery fought a duel in Germany with an Irishman called Thomas Christmas, formerly a Lieutenant of the 8th Hussars and son of the M.P. William Christmas. The reason for this duel taking place was apparently the result of an “intrigue” Thomas Christmas had had with Johnson’s wife. On the afternoon when they met Christmas received the first fire through both thighs, as a result he turned and discharged his pistol in the air. Edward Johnson thought this a gentlemanly act, showing “high courage”. Hereafter Johnson’s life appears to have been uneventful.

At the end of the century, the Deanery became the home to the confectioner J.W. Luccock who was the owner of the Stag Confectionery Works, later to become Horner’s Toffee Factory.

In the 17th Century, King James the 1st granted the Deanery including the vicarage, rectory and associated prebends, to Sir James Ouchterlony and Richard Gurnard of London, who held it in trust for the Hedworth family.

In the 1680s the ownership of the Deanery was transferred down through various members of the Hedworth family (see Timeline) eventually ending up in 1704 with Ralph Hedworth. When Ralph died on 31st May 1747, he was succeeded by his two daughters. The eldest married Sir Richard Hylton of Hylton Castle (whose daughter in turn married William Joliffe) and Sir Richard’s youngest daughter married Sir Ralph Milbanke (Baronet of Seaham & Halnaby in Yorkshire).

The Deanery then passed into the ownership of William Joliffe and then Charles Joliffe who jointly owned the premises with Mrs Anne Isabella Milbanke (wife of the poet Lord Byron) until the early 1800s.

In the 1820s the Deanery passed to John Morton Davison who tenanted the building until 1830 when it became the residence of Edward Johnson a Justice of the Peace and Wine Merchant.


In 1906, The Deanery was bought by Durham County Education Committee and was subsequently demolished to make way for the Chester-le-Street Secondary School which was opened by Mr. T.F. Brass Esq. on the 19th September 1911. The school then became the Grammar School, then The Deanery School and is now known as Park View School.

In 1965, a Human Skull and the Jawbone of a Horse was found while excavations were taking place to extend the school buildings.

These findings were at the time referred to the Police for investigation. A Forensic Report suggested that the Human Skull, the Horse’s Jawbone and other bones found at the scene were of a period in history of around 1100 to 1200 AD and were possibly of a Norman Soldier. The impact to the rear of skull suggested that this may well have been the cause of death and as the Norman’s at that time were considered the enemy and thoroughly disliked by the local population, both he and his horse may have been slain. As there would have been serious repercussions for whoever had committed the murder, the bodies may well have been hastily buried and lain undetected for some 800 years.

Finally, although there’s nothing of The Deanery still visible today, there are some signs dotted around the town to verify its existence. This takes the form of the Deanery Boundary Stones, one of which can be found at the corner of what was O’Brien’s Newspaper shop next to the Market Place, another is prominently displayed near the houses that now occupy the former Council Yard in Bullion Lane and one next to what was Corker’s (now One Stop) shop at Pelaw.

Others can be seen on Waldridge Fell, and in years gone by the people of the town used to “Walk the Bounds”. These Boundary Stones can be easily identified by their shape and their markings, bearing the letters “The M of CD” (The Manor of Chester Deanery), the year 1829 and their individual numbering. Good hunting!!

Boundary Stone Bullion Lane

The Deanery – Time Line

  • 1286 – The construction of the original Deanery building.
  • 1547 – The Church ceases a Collegiate – Dean and Prebends dismissed.
  • 1606 – James1st granted the Deanery Estate to the Hedworth family.
  • 1680 – Transfer of Deanery through the Hedworth’s:
    • Richard Hedworth the 1st son of John Hedworth.
    • Richard Hedworth to his son John Hedworth.
    • John Hedworth to his son Ralph Hedworth.
  • 1704 – Ralph Hedworth to his son John Hedworth.
  • 1747 – 31st May – John Hedworth died (he had two wives) and succeeded by his two daughters:
    • o 1st Daughter married Sir Richard Hylton of Hylton Castle.
    • o They had a daughter who married Hylton Joliffe.
    • o 2nd Daughter married Sir Ralph Milbanke Baronet of Seaham & Halnaby (Yorkshire).
  • 1800s (Early) – Deanery tenanted by John Morton Davidson who improved the house & grounds.
  • 1830s – Edward Johnson – Magistrate and Wine Merchant from Newcastle. The Deanery at this time was described as a handsome brick house in a pleasant situation. He stayed at the Deanery for over 50 years until his death in 1885.
  • 1834 – Edward Johnson fought a duel with an Irishman called Thomas Christmas who was formally a Lieutenant in the 8th Hussars to resolve an issue of marital honour.
  • 1857 – Descendants Charles Joliffe & Lady Byron owners.  Lady Byron and Hylton Joliffe were joint owners of the Deanery and several other estates and collieries derived from the Hedworth family.
  • 1890s – The Deanery became the home of John W. Luccock Merchant & Confectioner who had a shop on the Front Street and operated the Stag Confectionary Works in Foundry Lane, later to become Horner’s Toffee Factory.
  • 1906 – The Deanery and 2½ acres were bought by Durham County Education Committee for £2000 and subsequently demolished to make way for the Secondary Modern School.
  • 1911 – The new school was opened by T.F. Brass Esq., County Councillor Chair of Governors and Colliery Agent for Sacriston.
  • 1965 – Human Skull and the Jawbone of a Horse found while excavations were taking place to extend the school buildings referred to as “The Deanery Murders”.