Robert Surtees (antiquarian)

Robert Surtees (1779 – 13 February 1834) was a celebrated English historian and antiquary of his native County Durham.


Surtees was born in Durham, and educated at Kepier School, Houghton-le-Spring, and later at Christ Church, Oxford. Although a student of law he never practised as a lawyer. From 1802 he spent most of his life at Mainsforth Hall.

By 1804, Surtees had begun collecting material for what was to become his monumental county history, The History of Durham.

He was a studious and sensitive man who did not always have good health. He was hospitable at Mainsforth, and guests included Sir Walter Scott, with whom Surtees frequently corresponded.

Christian faith was central in Surtees's life: he regularly worshipped at Bishop Middleham parish church.

By 1816 the first volume of The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham was published ("compiled from original records preserved in public repositories and private collections by Robert Surtees"). Two further volumes followed and a final volume was published posthumously in 1840.[1] The work covers much of the county but does not include Weardale, Teesdale, the Aucklands, Brancepeth, or Durham Castle or Cathedral. James Raine, the Elder compiled The History and Antiquities of North-Durham, 1852, to supply the need.[2]

Never in good health, Surtees complained of a cold in January 1834, complications developed and he died on 13 February 1834, with his wife at his bedside. He was buried in Bishop Middleham churchyard, and a monument to him was later erected in Bishop Middleham Church.


He married Anne Robinson (born 10 January 1785), of Herrington, in 1807.[3] His wife Anne survived him, living in Mainsforth until her death in March 1868 (registered in Stockton):[4] they had no children. The Surtees Society was founded following his death to continue his work.[1]


  1. Chisholm 1911.
  2. Raine, James (1852) The history and antiquities of North Durham. London: J. B. Nichols // Surtees: Durham - Vol. 1, 1816; v. 2-3, 1820-23; v. 4, 1840 (with memoir of the author, by George Taylor); vol. 4 edited by James Raine; each volume contains numerous pedigrees
  3. Carr 1898.
  4. "FreeBMD Home Page". 26 December 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2017.


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