Snow Hall

Describing Snow Hall in The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham Robert Surtees wrote,

'one of the loveliest spots in the river valley stands a mile to the east of Gainford on swiftly rising ground, with a haugh of rich pasturage in front bounded by a sweep of the Tees. The surrounding grounds are warm and sheltered, richly sprinkled with hedgerows of lofty ash and oak and elm, and with luxuriant growth of native holly.' 1

The hall was then occupied by his relation, friend and fellow antiquarian Thomas Sherwood. By tracing the lives of many of its owners through a wide range of probate records deposited in the Special Collections at Durham University Library, and which are now made accessible through the North East Inheritance catalogue, we can chronicle something of the times they lived through and gather together a history of this fine old hall.

The first owner of Snow Hall we find in the Durham probate records is Edward Rayne, yeoman, in 1667. But a lease held in the collections of Durham County Record Office locates him there in 1656, and in 1666 he was assessed for three hearths, placing his establishment at Snow Hall among the better of the second rank in Gainford township in that year.

He died in the spring of 1667 aged 71 leaving property in Gainford and Bolam and a pair of oxen to his son Cuthbert Rayne. To Ann Eden his daughter he left five pounds. His grandson John, the eldest son of his eldest son Richard was to inherit land and a house at Bolam at the age of 21. Aside from gifts to other grandchildren and his nephew's children of a heifer, a ewe and lamb and money, all the rest of his property and belongings went to Richard who was also named as his executor.

Image of the Will of Edward Rayne of Snow Hall, yeoman. Ref: DPRI/1/1667/R1/1-2

Will of Edward Rayne of Snow Hall, yeoman [Ref: DPRI/1/1667/R1/1-2].

The inventory lists a fore house, a low parlour a west chamber and three lofts. The furniture, utensils and linen are itemised for each room and a milk house and include his implements of husbandry and livestock. At his death he owned a pair of oxen, 6 kine and 2 calves, three steers, 2 yearling calves, a mare a colt and a filly, and twenty ewes and lambs with a ram.

Image of the Inventory of Edward Rayne of Snow Hall, yeoman. Ref: DPRI/1/1667/R1/3

Inventory of Edward Rayne of Snow Hall, yeoman [Ref: DPRI/1/1667/R1/3].

His purse and clothing were valued at £10. He was owed £40 with debts termed desperate, or unlikely to be repaid, of another £40. The appraisers reckoned that his personal property was worth £142 6s 8d in total, with liabilities of £38 9s 2d for funeral expenses, legacies and rent due at Whitsuntide.


1. Surtees, R. The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, (1816-1840), vol.IV, p15.

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