The Origins of Ryhope
The boundary of the Conservation Area encompasses the area of the medieval village of Ryhope which was developed as a 3 street village around a triangular Village Green.
The name Ryhope is the latest of several variations; originally it appears to have been 'Rive hope', possibly because of the beautiful hope (or dene) which extends some 2 miles inland that seems to have been "riven" out of the land.
Ryhope is first mentioned in 930 AD when King Athelstan gave the parish of "South Wearmouth" and its appendages to the See of Durham. Its townships included "duas Refhoppa" and Ryhope is normally taken to be one of the two villages referred to. Ryhope is subsequently mentioned in The Boldon Book of Bishop Pudsley in 1183 and the survey of Bishop Hatfield in 1380. In 1183 there were recorded to be 22 villeins in the villages of Ryhope and Burdon, who formed a class known as bond tenants, cotmen and farmers All were servants for life, each receiving as wages enough land to support themselves and family, rendering to their masters money, cattle and 'fruits of the earth". By 1380 Ryhope had developed into a small village of about 150 people.
The Village developed as a farming community and until 1680 there were only 2 freeholders. In 1680 the "Great
Common", which had previously been used by the tenants for grazing their cattle, was split up into plots. The original pattern of long plots of land leading off the Village Green has changed little since this time and can still be recognized today stretching behind the buildings about the Green. Working farms are still located in the Village and, until recently, it was not unusual to see cattle being herded along Stockton Road for milking.
Limestone was quarried nearby from early times and random stone walls are a typical feature of the Village. Other natural materials in evidence about the Village are slate and clay pantile roofs
Before the advent of the Colliery, Ryhope was a favourite place for sea - bathing. The sandy beach was close to the Village and there was good accommodation for visitors. Unfortunately in later years thousands of tons of sand were removed by rail and road and coastal
Erosion caused much arable land to fall into the sea. The beach remains peaceful and unspoilt and is enjoyed by many locals.
In 1856 sinking operations began to reach coal seams deep beneath the magnesium limestone. In 1859 the Colliery, opened occupying the beautiful valley south of Tunstall Hills, however this was soon to be despoiled in the quest for coal. Ryhope expanded northwards experiencing substantial physical changes to accommodate the sudden influx of workers and their families. This growth brought with it a divided social structure, "the Colliery" and "the Village" whose inhabitants wished to maintain their independence.
This divide was reflected in the congregation of St Paul's Church which was built at this time to cater for the -ever growing population, replacing the small parish church to the west of the Green. St. Paul's was funded by the Vicar and a committee of local farmers. The foundation stone was laid in 1869 and the occasion was well attended by "the leading inhabitants of the Village and a sprinkling of working classes.
As Ryhope began to grow as a coal mining village, communication links became ever more important. By 1855 two separate railways with independent stations ran side by side to the Southeast of the Village, both transporting coal and passengers. In 1905 electric trams also reached Ryhope from Sunderland. Ryhope's new accessibility encouraged development: a water pumping station opened in 1868 and its magnificent beam engines may still be seen operating in what is now Ryhope Engines Museum, a large mental hospital was built in 1895 and Ryhope Secondary School was erected in 1911 for 200 pupils to serve the whole County. In the WW2 years a temporary wooden Hospital was built to accommodate the wounded soldiers arriving by train at the two station, it still stands today but its days are numbered.
In 1966 the pit closed, marking the end of an era for Ryhope.