261 Roman Catholic baptisms at Pontop Hall and at St. Cuthbert’s church at Brooms, both in the parish and district of Lanchester, spanning 1793-1839. St. Cuthbert’s was built in the 1790s but not formally opened until 1802. It was one of the first public Catholic churches built after the Reformation. Before the advent of St. Cuthbert’s, the local Catholics had been served for at least 50 years by the Jesuit mission at Pontop Hall.
Although these two locations effectively shared one register, from a researcher’s point of view, there are 3 registers to consult. The original Pontop Hall register has the National Archives reference number of RG4/1. The entries are written in Latin, in different hands, unevenly spaced, and some are squeezed in as an apparent afterthought. It has numerous ink blots, Latin abbreviations, and cross-throughs, making it difficult to read.
A parallel register is the Lanchester St. Cuthbert’s register, held at the Durham County Record Office, referenced as RC/Brm1/1. The title page says “Pontop Baptismal Register, copied part from Mr. Johnson’s Baptismal Register, from the year 1778”. (James Johnson was the priest at Pontop Hall in the 1770s.) This register is a handwritten extract of the Pontop Hall register from 1778 to 1806, but apparently it used to contain entries to 1815. This is explained by this note after the last entry in 1806:
“It would seem that around 1807-8 John Bell made this copy of the baptism entries from the Pontop Register. After 5 April 1808, he ceased to use the original register and from 5 June 1809 he entered all baptisms in this book. He continued this practice until 28 Aug 1815. Then on 25 Sep 1815 he made one final entry in the original Pontop register and his successors continued to do so until 15 Mar 1827 when it was full. Because of the gap in the Pontop register from 1809 until 1815, the two relevant pages of this book were removed and inserted into the Pontop register when it was deposited with the Public Record Office. Signed: R. Richmond, 9 Jan 1990, Public Rec. Office”
Note that the pages dealing with 1809 to 1815 were removed (not copied) from the St. Cuthbert’s copy and added to the original Pontop Hall register. RG4/1 then continues, after the inserted pages, to July 1827. At that point, a new register was started, still titled “St. Cuthbert’s and Pontop Hall”, which runs from 1827 to Sept 1839 and has the reference number RG4/2284.
Because RC/Brm1/1 is a copy, it has evenly spaced entries written all in the same handwriting and is much easier to read – but it also has errors, omissions, and even some additions. In general, the original Pontop Hall register is more accurate, as you would expect. It is also more comprehensive; for example, many baptisms list the relationship of the sponsors to the child (avus, avia, amita, avunculus, etc.), while the St. Cuthbert’s copy omits those relationships and lists only the sponsors’ names. The copy also omits some mothers’ maiden surnames, especially where they were hard to read in the original register. However, in some cases, information was added to the copy that is not present in the original, including names and abodes. In entries from 1778 to 1806, if the two registers offered differing or complementary information, we combined the information from both registers.
Sample baptisms – the register is in Latin to Oct 1833:
- 21 Sep 1797 John Dunn, of Kio Burne, born 14 Sep 1797, son of Richard Dunn by his wife Maria Teasdale
Godparents or Sponsors: Jas. Dixon; Maria Dunn
[Note: this baptism was found in the St. Cuthbert’s copy of the Pontop Hall register, without the birth date. The birth date is from a scrap of paper (listing several children of this couple) inserted between pages 20 and 21 in the original Pontop Hall register.]
- 13 Dec 1802 Margareta Fenwick, of Marley Hill, born 27 Nov 1802, daughter of Radulphi Fenwick by his wife Mariae olim Stott
Godparents or Sponsors: Gulielmus Stott; Maria Clara Wake
- 29 Mar 1824 Margarita Pearson, born 14 Mar 1824, daughter of Richardi Pearson by his wife Annae olim Heavelock
Godparents or Sponsors: Gulielmus Heavelock; Joanna Grey
- 29 Jun 1836 Margaret Bell, of Shotly Bridge, born 6 Jun 1836, daughter of John Bell & Mary formerly Conroy
Godparents or Sponsors: Dennis Conroy; Mary Doyle
Abodes mentioned include Bantling Castle, Bushblades, Collierley, Dipton, Ebchester, Greencroft, Iveston, Kio (Kyo) Burn, Low Brooms, Luns or Lunt’s House, Medomsley, Pont House, Pontop, Shield Row, Shotley Bridge, Stony Heap, Success Pit, and Tantoby. There are also 11 baptisms performed by the Pontop minister at either North or South Shields in 1788-1789, like this:
- 8 Dec 1788 Elizabetha Wilson, of South Shields, born 5 Dec, daughter of George Wilson (Protestant) by his wife Susanna Unthank (Catholic), baptized at Shields
Godparents or Sponsors: Gul. Evans; Eliz. Place, amita
[Note: this small section of baptisms at “Shields” for 1788-90 precedes 1794 baptisms in the Pontop Hall register.]