Farming Village & Historic Lead Mining Centre
Rookhope is a small, picturesque village nestling in its own valley just off the A689 route through Weardale, steeped in history (see more below) with a strong community feel. Set in the midst of the Northern Pennines ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ and in the far West of County Durham close to the borders with South Northumberland and Cumbria.
The great poet, W.H. Auden described Rookhope as “the most wonderfully desolate of all the dales“, and the upper dale beyond the village towards the remains of Groverake Mine still lives up to that description. There’s a blog post on this site with more links.
The village is large enough to have a primary school, Working Men’s club, Chapel and a small village shop to cover your basic needs. One of the plus points of the school is that the roads are kept clear through to Stanhope even in the worst of the Pennine snows for School access.
The Rookhope Burn cuts through the village though there are several bridges to cross over to the Lintzgarth side which has some lovely walks up into the hills, including the Weardale Way and tracing the route of the Border Reivers celebrated in the Rookhope Ryde. The streams rising on the East side of the valley tumble into Bolt’s Burn which runs alongside the track up to Terrace Cottage. Indeed on some earlier maps, Bolt’s Burn was the name used for the village – Rookhope being the valley name.
The local pub, The Rookhope Inn pub is the heart of the village as a meeting place for locals and haven for cyclists and is literally 50 paces away. Now run by Kenny and Scott the pub serves decent food and beers, with speciality nights such as ‘Fish & Chip Fridays’; we’ll update these on our facebook and twitter pages.
The pub can be very quiet in winter with just a few locals calling in but always a roaring log fire in the main room. As the weather picks up, you’ll find groups of walkers and particularly cyclists in the evenings sharing stories of the climbs on the C2C; so booking for food can be a wise move.
The nearest other pubs worth visiting are the Cross Keys at Eastgate and the Allenheads Inn. There are plenty of others in Stanhope and St John’s Chapel.
Walks, cycle paths and bridle ways are easily accessible in the area and enjoy stunning scenery and beautiful surroundings. The main of these is the Coast to Coast Cycleway, where the adventurous can cycle from Roker in Sunderland right across to Whitehaven in Cumbria. For visitors to Rookhope its a wonderful bonus as the route passes right next to the Terrace Cottage. So saddle up and get off into the hills and explore.
The large shed on the Terrace area can also be used for a secure bike storage, and we have an outside tap in case you need to wash down after a hard day’s ride. If you don’t have your own bike there are several places you can hire bikes for your stay; see more on the Cycling page.
View Terrace Cottage, Rookhope in a full screen map
Shopping & Essentials
Rookhope has a small general store, known as the Post Office which carries many of the essentials in case you run out!
There is a lot more information on the Shopping Page and in the useful contacts list we provide for our visitors in the Terrace Cottage.
There is a motor engineer in Rookhope as well should the worst happen! 01388 517800. Nearest petrol stations are in Stanhope or Alston, so don’t let the tank run dry!
Places of Worship
Rookhope used to have two churches, though both with small congregations and infrequent services; there are places ofworship in easy reach in Stanhope and Wolsingham with more regular service times.
- St John’s Anglican Church was part of the Upper Weardale benefice and is up a hill at the south end of the village. Unfortunately the church has recently closed and the parish combined with St Thomas’ in Stanhope, just a few miles away.
- Rookhope Methodist church is at 22 East End in the Village.
History of Rookhope
The Village has been here for centuries originally named Bolt’s Burn as ‘Rookhope’ actually means ‘the valley of the Rooks’. It was a scattered farming community at first,with a mainly pastoral community. Rookhope features in a story of a 1569 battle between local farmers and Tynedale cattle raiders remembered in the folk song ‘Rookhope Ryde‘.
When Lead and Fluorspar mining really took off in the Northern Pennines during the 18th and 19th centuries, Rookhope’s population grew, with many families working in the Mine as well as farming the land around.
The ores and fluorspars crop in veins running pretty much in the lines of the waterways, with Red Vein directly under the village.
It’s difficult to imagine now but 100 years ago, the narrow valley would have been a veritable hive of activity, with the sounds of heavy industrial processes and steam engines running raw materials from the mines to the smelting works just up the valley.
The 1903 OS map above shows some of this infrastructure with railways going up very steep inclines to the North East of the village centre.
The Bolt’s Burn Mine eventually closed in 1932 without being exhausted, as despite being the leading UK Lead Mine for many years, much of the very rich lead deposits remain.
The entry for the village in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870) by John Marius Wilson, lists Rookhope thus: “ROOKHOPE, a chapelry in Stanhope parish, Durham; on a brook of its own name, an affluent of the river Wear, 4¾ miles N W of Stanhope Railway station. Post-town, Stanhope, under Darlington. The statistics arereturned with the parish. The living is a p. curacy in the diocese of Durham. Value, £400. Patron, the Bishop of Ripon.”
You’ll find plenty of historical books in the local shops and information centres, such as the Durham Dales Centre in Stanhope or Chatterbox Café in St John’s Chapel. You can also still buy Weardale Pocket Images from Amazon and a fascinating insight into life in the dale in the 1800s in Life and Times in Victorian Weardale: The Letters of Francis Vickers. One interesting article that describes the mine workings under your feet in Rookhope and Bolt’s Burn is on the ukminingventures website, which describes what its like to explore a newly opened working:
“These spaceous chambers give Nature the opportunity of modelling her creations on larger lines hence the massive cubes of fluor spar and huge bosses of crystallized galena. Entering one of these caverns immediately after being broken into by the miners, you find yourself surrounded by crystallized fluorite, the only stepping places being points and angles of six inch cubes. You admire the various shades of purple blue and heliotrope in the translucent crystals…” Read more on the website
It was always a hard life for the workforce, and many supplemented wages by foraging and taking advantage of the local wildlife to fill the pot with grouse, moorhen and rabbits. Unfortunately the landowner – the Prince Bishop of Durham and considered this as poaching.
So, in 1818, on December 7th, Bishop Shute Barrington sent an army of men, land stewards, bailiffs and gamekeepers, to Stanhope to arrest the ring leaders and imprison them in a local inn.
The Miners were angered by this and set against them and gathered outside the Inn and the confrontation turned into a ‘battle’ between the Bishop’s men and the locals with the Bishop’s men being heavily defeated and much bloodshed. This was then known as ‘The Battle of Stanhope’ and celebrated in the song – “The Bonny Moorhen” – which also gives fascinating insights into the area at the time:
THE BONNY MOOR HEN
You brave lads of Weardale, I pray lend an ear
The account of a battle you quickly shall here,
That was fought by the miners, so well you may ken
By claiming a right to the bonny moor hen.
Oh this bonny moor hen, as it plainly appears,
She belonged to their fathers some hundreds of years;
But the miners of Weardale are all valiant men,
They will fight till they die for their bonny moor hen.
Oh the miners in Weardale, they are bred to the game,
They level their pieces and make sure of their aim;
When the shot it goes off – Oh, the powder doth sing,
They are sure to take off, a leg or a wing
Now, the times being hard and provisons being dear,
The miners were starving almost we do hear;
They had nought to depend on, so well you may ken,
But to make what they could of their bonny moor hen.
There’s the fat man of Auckland and Durham the same
Lay claim to the moors and likewise the game
They send word to the miners they would have them to ken
They would stop them from shooting the bonny moor hen.
Of these words they were carried to Weardale with speed
Which made the poor miners hang down their heeds
But then sent an answer they would have them to ken
They would fight till they died for their bonny moor hen.
When this answer it came to the gentlemen’s ears,
An army was risen, it quickly appears;
Land stewards, bum bailiffs, and game-keepers too,
Were all ordered to Weardale to fight their way through.
Oh this battle was fought all in Stanhope town,
When the chimneys did reek and the soot it fell down
Such a battle was ne’er fought in Stanhope before
And I hope such a battle will ne’er be fought more.
This site is listed in the British Towns and Villages Encyclopaedia of Great Britain and we can be found in the entry for Rookhope Thumbnail Screenshots by Thumbshots Travel Directory A worldwide travel directory featuring travel deals, travel photos and travel blogs.