The Market Cross stands on the village green, Thomas Chaucer erected the cross in 1795 a local Mason who designed and sculpted the cross. The cross stands 18ft and is located on the site of where John Wesley preached on the village green. The Cross is constructed in 4 shafts the original cross from the top of the monument currently stands in the grounds of Tynedale House, Ryton.
Holy Cross Church
The earliest record of a church in Ryton is 1112 in connection with the foundation of Kepier Hospital. In 1314 a composition was made between the master of Kepier Hospital and the rector of Ryton to the sum of two marks a year. The Holy Cross which is situated in the west of the village and is the oldest building in Ryton dates back to 1220. The Architecture of the Church is Gothic, and the spire towers 120ft, it was built in three stages, it is octagonal and made from oak and covered in lead. The stainglass windows are believed to date from 1450
The first rector Alexander de Nola was Italian and was appointed by Walter de Gray, Archbishop of Durham. There have been several distinguished rectors of Ryton, Thomas Secker (1727) who was to become the Archbishop of Canterbury. Charles Thorp (1807) Virtual Founder and first warden of Durham University. The Hon. Richard Byron (1769) brother of William fifth Lord Byron.
The Village Fair
The village fairs were first held in the churchyard on the anniversary of the founding of the church. The fairs involved jugglers and dancers and stalls selling local produce. The fairs became popular and had to be moved on to the village green, because of the number of people attending.
The Village Green
The Village green played an important social role within the community of Ryton, There were several events held here such as the Hirings, and each May Day the village green was where the may pole dancing took place. The green was also the place where John and Charles Wesley preached, Charles preached on more than one occasion on the village green.
Annually there was the hirings which took place on the Friday before the 12th May and 22nd November. The village was cleaned up all the houses were whitewashed and painted. The purpose of the hirings was to bring the community together for a village fair, and for the villagers to hire servants. The servants for hire would stand around the market cross and wear a green sprig either in their hat if they were male, and the females would carry a sprig or would attach it to their clothing. The hirings would have also attracted jugglers and minstrels. There were stalls set up from the village green to the Jolly fellows where sweets and The hirings would attract people from surrounding villages, and would carry until dusk. The dancing would then carry on and move into rooms above the local pubs, it was tradition to give the fiddler and tin whistler a penny a tune. The hirings continued in Ryton until 1866. It is not sure when they started again but could have been around the early seventies late sixties, until the eighties.
Coal Mining and Industry
Ryton had two main industries coal and agriculture, it is thought that mining began in Ryton back in Roman times however around 1239 when King Henry III granted that coal may be mined outside the walls, coal was mined more extensively. The coal would have been mined in fields and probably not as deep as the later mines. The oldest colliery to be sunk was in 1800 this was Stargate, followed by Emma Pit in 1845 , Addison 1864, Clara 1893, and Greenside re-opened in 1902. There were many farms in the area which were of mixed farming, however due to ministry guidance the acreage to crops has increased greatly.
Charles Thorp was rector of Ryton from 1807, he took over from his father William, Charles in 1815 set up a Savings bank in the White house to encourage thriftiness amongst parishioners. The White House which overlooks the village green still stands there and still whitewashed hence the name of the house. It is said that the bank was the first of it’s kind in England, although some argue it was the North. The bank was open on Saturdays between six o’clock till eight, and was used by smiths, colliers and other workmen of the neighborhood.
The Pinfold is located in the west of the village and was used to keep stray animals the owners were charges a fine, when they came to collect their animals. The pinfold dates back to the 12th century, the design is thought of as a rarity as the pinfold is located on a hill where a stream once ran through, providing drinking water for the animals, which in many pinfolds was the responsibility of the owner. Ryton Heritage Group restored the pinfold in 1974.
The Parish of Ryton consisted of Ryton, Woodside, Crawcrook, Stella, Winlaton, and Chopwell. On 6th November 1832 Winlaton became a separate parish, August 1844 Stella became a separate parish, and on the 6th May 1886 Greenside became separate.
The first record of a school in Ryton was in 1727 when Christopher Hopper wrote about attending school. The village school was erected in 1884 with money from the Stella Coal Company, this type of school was known as a ’voluntary school’ where the school had been built and was run by voluntary enterprise. However at this time children still had to pay a fee of 2d. per week for young children and 6d. per week for those with higher standards. The Schools carried on until 1907 when the children were transferred to the new Crookhill County School.