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Dilston’s History

Archaeology at DilstonChapel and new GalleryThe Lord's Bridge over DevilswaterThe portrait, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, shows James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, with his Countess Anna Maria and son JohnDilston Castle

The Manor of Dilston – Dyvelston

The recorded history of Dilston goes back to the early 12th century when a medieval manor house or castle, which pre-dates the present ruin (Dilston Castle), was built on the steep escarpment overlooking the Devil’s Water, a tributary of the River Tyne. The settlement of Divelston/Dyvelston that grew up on the sloping hillside to the east of the manor took its name from the Devil’s Water, known anciently as the Divels or Dyvels.

Dilston Township was carved out of the Royal Manor of Corbridge and created a barony by either William ll or Henry l.  It is thought that the recipient of the royal grant was Aluric of Corbridge, who was Chief Officer of Corbridge and Sheriff of Northumberland between 1107 and 1118.  His son Richard de Dyvelston certainly held the barony, which passed to his brother William between 1118 and 1152.  When Lucy de Dyvelston died in 1317, leaving no heir, the manor passed to a relation, William de Tyndale of Kirkhaugh.

In 1379 the Claxton Family of Claxton and Horden in Durham laid claim to the manor but it was almost seventy years before they secured an acknowledged settlement. The fortified solar tower (Dilston Castle) was built by Sir William Claxton ll, after he acquired the manor in 1416. It is first referred to in a deed drawn up by his son Sir Robert Claxton, in 1464. Sir Robert Claxton died in 1484 leaving four daughters and co-heirs, one of whom Joanna married a Sir John Cartington, of Cartington Tower, Coquetdale, in 1457.

The manors of Dilston and Cartington came into the possession of the Radcliffe Family through the marriage of Sir John Cartington’s daughter and sole heir Anne to Edward Radcliffe, a younger son of Sir Thomas Radcliffe of Derwentwater, c.1480.  Knighted in 1501 Sir Edward Radcliffe held the offices of Warden of the Middle Marches and Sheriff of Northumberland from 1499 to 1516. He and his family resided at Cartington Tower rather than at Dilston, which was occupied by his wife’s widowed-mother Dame Joanna Cartington.

Sir Cuthbert Radcliffe, eldest son of Sir Edward Radcliffe of Cartington, succeeded to Dilston under the will of his grandmother Dame Joanna Cartington, dated 20 February, 1521/2, making it his main family seat.  Sir Cuthbert Radcliffe, who is described as a man of distinction, held the offices of Sheriff of Northumberland, Constable of Alnwick Castle, Deputy Warden of the Middle Marches and Captain of Berwick between 1526 and 1540.

Dilston next passed to Sir George Radcliffe, who was Sheriff of Northumberland in 1558 and Warden of the East Marches. Sir George added to the family’s considerable list of estates in Northumberland, the manor of Derwentwater, in Cumberland, to which he became entitled in 1554, following a long drawn out family dispute. Thus the Dilston and Derwentwater estates came into the hands of a single owner and, from then on, the two names have been inseparably connected.

Devil’s Water – The Dyvels

The name is not a reference to the Devil but means black or bleak water.  Lord’s Bridge spanning the Devil’s Water, below Dilston Castle, dates to c.1616.  A medieval bridge was once sited at Dilston Mill slightly downstream.

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Old print of Dilston

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