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July 2022 Item of the Month

Plan of Greatham by James Averre, 1818

This attractive set of plans of farms and other properties in Greatham, Co. Durham, was drawn and coloured by James Averre (1752-1832), a schoolmaster and the parish clerk. Many of the properties are either farmed by or leased from the Master and Brethren of Greatham Hospital, which was then undergoing a renaissance under the guiding hand of Master John-William Egerton. As his 1829 will attests Averre and his wife Mary Smith leased cottages from the Hospital. The extent of the Averre family’s property portfolio can be traced forward from his will through the Land Tax assessments, held in the Library’s Special Collections and in the County Record Office.

The style of the plans is quite antiquated. Houses are shown in profile, more in the style of this 1722 plan of Stockton or this 1765 plan of Ferryhill for example, and many fields are drawn by eye rather than surveyed. Tithe maps, dating from the 1830s, are more sparing in style and usually less colourful and attractive. Greatham’s tithe plan of 1840 completely omits the Hospital’s lands as these were extra-parochial and exempt from tithes. Indeed the Master of the Hospital owned the great tithes of the township Greatham.

Founded as the Hospital of God, St. Mary and St. Cuthbert in 1273, it was endowed with the manor of Greatham, (forfeited by Peter de Montford following the Battle of Evesham), and later also with the church of Greatham by Bishop Anthony Beke. Its ordinances appointed a Master, five other priests and two clerks, and forty poor brethren to be chosen from the most indigent within the manors of the Bishop. These poor brethren were to have “a competent house to eat and to sleep in; they shall be chosen of the most infirm and indigent, without other preference”. The number of poor brethren was reduced to thirteen “poor and needy men, bachelors and stricken in years” in 1610, and the buildings themselves became much dilapidated. Some restoration was undertaken in the 18th century, the chapel was rebuilt and an almshouse founded for six poor women, but the most sweeping changes occurred in 1803 when the Hospital was rebuilt according to a plan by Jeffrey Wyatt (later Wyatville) (1766-1840) for the then Master John-William Egerton, Earl of Bridgewater (1752-1823) and eldest son of John Egerton, Bishop of Durham (1721-1787). Today the Hospital has a Residential Care Home and Day Centres together with 110 almshouses (homes for older people) in Greatham, Norton and Stockton-on-Tees (Charity Commission report). A view of the original Infirmary was drawn in the 1770s by Samuel Grimm (1733-1794), and an engraving of the Wyatt-Egerton Gothic-like rebuild was published in 1829.

This volume of plans (ADD 2001) was generously presented to the Library in 2015 by Treena Markland.

Every month we showcase here an item from our Heritage Collections.