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More Local History

Other sites containing information about the history of Holywell Dene and its surrounding areas include:-

In The Beginning

The first reference to Holywell Dene was in 800AD although it was then known as Merkel Dene. It was part of the Manor of Hartley.

Lord Hastings is a descendant of the Delaval family who have been the key to the development of the Dene over centuries. It was shortly after 1066, that Holywell Dene was conferred to Hubert De Laval who had come to Britain with the army of William the Conqueror.

In 1219 the Manor of Hartley was conferred to Gilbert de Laval and became part of the Delaval Estate, as it is today.

Human Settlements

It is thought that the earliest settlement in the Dene was called Gouldens Hole and dated from Saxon times. At the time of the first census in 1841 the settlement consisted of 10 houses with 53 residents. By 1861 the settlement had been abandoned.

Corn Mills

The Delaval Estate granted the first lease for a Water and Windmill in 1628 to grind corn. Both operated for approximately 150 years. The water mill buildings remained occupied until 1870 but the two houses, associated with the windmill, remained occupied until around 1960.


In 1760 the Estate granted a new lease for a water and windmill but only the former, Hartley Mill, was in the Dene. It operated until around 1920 but the associated house remained in occupation until 1970.

Coal Mining

Coal had been dug and used as fuel by households since earliest times. Around 1600 Ralph Delaval started leasing land to wealthy entrepreneurs to mine coal. At that time a wooden railed wagon way was constructed to transport the coal to the harbour at Seaton Sluice for export, thereby using many of the Oak Trees from the Dene.

On the edge of the Dene is Old Engine, where, in 1760, an engine was built to draw coal from the mine. It generated wide interest.

The engine was dismantled in 1780 but the associated 6 houses remained in occupation for a further 150 years. In 1841 the houses were home to 32 people with one family making and selling boots and shoes.


The ‘ridge and furrow’ fields adjacent to the Dene, still visible today, show that families living in the Dene were operating a method of farming in the middle ages. In 1574, farms, as we know them today, were introduced with the Dene having three, Crowhall, Hartley West and Grove Farms.


The former two are still operating as farms today but Grove Farm ceased being a farm in 1860. However the buildings were occupied until between the wars. In 1911 there were still 15 people in residence.

Final Thought

In 1841 there were 198 people living in the above-mentioned locations and even as late as 1911 there were still 77 residents.