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Tyne and Wear HER(7674): Ryton, village green - Details

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Ryton, village green



Gardens Parks and Urban Spaces

Village Green

Post Medieval



An attractive heart to the village. Wild (2004) suggests that the characteristic green villages of Northumberland date back to the reconstruction of settlement in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest and the 'harrying of the north'. The greens originally had a defensive function to protect livestock against Scottish raiders. The wide open space in the centre of the village could also be used for fairs, markets, for grazing animals and a meeting space (Rowley and Wood, 2000, 41). Dwellings were often built around the green, with a common forge, bakehouse, pinfold, smithy, alehouse, stocks, spring or pond on the green itself (Roberts 1977, 146). A cross dated 1795 marked a meeting place at Ryton for farm labourers at the beginning of the hiring seasons in May and November. Riotous fairs were held on the green but were abandoned after 1866. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE The Village green played an important social and economic role within the community of Ryton. It was the common land around which the buildings were gathered – often historically where animals could be sheltered in times of danger. Aside from the church, it was the centre of the community both in physical terms and in terms of activity, and most of the big events in the village calendar would take place here. These included the Hirings (an opportunity for servants to find work, and the wealthier villagers to employ new servants), the May Day celebrations (a pre-Christian festival that had been important in the culture of England for centuries), including maypole dancing, and perhaps the election of a May queen, and the village fair (after the population increased sufficiently to prevent the use of the constricted churchyard). Despite the important and ancient church, it was also the scene of some occasions of religious importance, as both John and Charles Wesley preached here (Charles on several occasions). 'Green Villages' were a common village form, where houses were clustered around a central green of common land. They had often been introduced after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, but there is also evidence of 'village' greens in Anglo-Saxon settlements, and even at Romano-British sites. The triangular form of the green is typical, as villages were often located at the meeting of three roads, and the historic mapping indicates that the positioning of the path through the green has been retained on the same trajectory since at least the mid 19th century. The mature trees also add to the interest of the space – offering a place for birds to inhabit as well as shelter for passing pedestrians. The green is a rare survival in the borough, and of crucial importance as the crux of the medieval settlement of Ryton (Ryton old village), for group value with the surviving buildings, as an attractive area of green open space, as the setting for these building, and in particular the old village cross, and for its historical associations. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Hirings Annually there was the hirings that 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, u




Fiona Green, 1995, A Guide to the Historic Parks and Gardens of Tyne and Wear, p 7; Gateshead Council Local List X20/LLG/25; T. Wild, 2004, Village England - a social history of the countryside, p 13; T. Rowley and J. Wood, 2000, Deserted Villages (third edition), p. 41; B.K. Roberts, 1977, Rural Settlement in Britain, p. 146; B.K. Roberts, 1987, The making of the English village - a study in historical geography, p. 151; Gateshead Local Studies places history for Ryton (; Durham County Council website (; BBC website (Restoration: Village;

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