People have lived within the area of Cotherstone Parish for several thousand years where there is evidence of earth covered remains of settlements and fields on Cotherstone Moor. Several examples of “cup and ring” rock carvings dating back some 4000 years can still be seen around Goldsborough Rigg, which relate to the neolithic and bronze ages, many of these remains are protected as nationally important sites.
The name Cotherstone is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was recorded as Codrestone. This is a name in two parts and reflects the name of the original Anglo-Saxon settler, Cudere or Cuthred, and “tun”, the Anglo-Saxon word for a small farm or village. The first settlement is thought to have been established in the 9th century, the site probably chosen for its convenient location between arable land and moorland pasture whilst being at the junction of the rivers Balder and Tees where the Tees could be forded.
The importance of the ford can be judged by the construction of a castle in the late 11th century on high ground overlooking the crossing, together with an unobstructed view to the west towards the Stainmore Pass (the current site of the A66 transpennine road to Cumbria) recognized as one of the main raiding routes from Scotland into England.
Remains of the castle are still visible today in the form of earthworks and some exposed wall foundations. The last upstanding fragment is featured in a photograph taken around 1870 by local photographer Elijah Yeoman. Stones from the castle and later manor house can be seen built into the walls of several nearby buildings.
The village as it developed, still exhibits a layout that reflects the medieval period, the system of strip fields following the Enclosure Acts, with the village occupation area centered around the main street with its pattern of back lanes and tofts, which was typical of crofts of the medieval period.
Today Cotherstone Parish has numerous listed ancient monuments, comprising of:
- Numerous “cup and ring” stones on Cotherstone Moor (as mentioned previously)
- Cotherstone Castle (as mentioned previously)
- The “butterstone” on Cotherstone Moor, a “cup rook” that was used in medieval times for plague victims (living out on the moor) to exchange money for food and other goods.
- The “Christening Stone” on the north bank of the Balder (in the Parish of Hunderthwaite) next to the road to Romaldkirk, a consecrated stone for the “resting” of coffins en-route to Romaldkirk for burial and for the local tradition of christening calved by the local farming community in the middle ages.
The village undertook major development with the coming of the railway in 1868 and the building of the three reservoirs in Baldersdale to supply water locally and to the industrial conurbation of “Teesside”. This opened up the area for tourism and the “onset” of the ability to commute. Large houses where built for wealthy families associated with businesses in the surrounding towns (Darlington and Bishop Aukland) and then with the development of the car, Cotherstone developed into a commuter village serving a wide area of County Durham, Cleveland, and North Yorkshire.