St Brandon's Church
Religious Place In Durham, County Durham
Anglican church in Brancepeth, with views over to the stunning Brancepeth Castle.
The history of St Brandon's Church is intertwined with the village's own. Its origins can be traced back to the 12th century, when a Norman lord erected a simple wooden chapel to serve the growing population. Over the centuries, the church underwent several transformations, reflecting the changing architectural styles and the evolving needs of the community. In the 15th century, the wooden chapel was replaced by a stone structure, which still forms the core of the present church.
Very sadly the interior of the church was severely damaged in a fire in 1998. You can see the extent of the damage on the church's website - the church was really just a shell, however there has been some significant work done to repair the building. Repairs cost around £3 million and included a new stained glass window created by designer Helen Whittaker called the Paradise Window. This is a real focal point of the church and was not intended to replicate old windows, but to look towards the future. The rest of the interior is now light, bright and airy and has a very welcoming feel to it.
The one positive that came from the church fire was the discovery of around 100 cross slabs, or tombstones, that were hidden within the walls of the church in the 17th century. The collection of cross slabs is the biggest in the North of England, and dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. It is believed that the tombstones were hidden high up in the walls of the clerestory by the church rector of the time John Cosin who wanted to protect the slabs from vandals. John Cosin later became the Bishop of Durham and was responsible for building the chapel at Auckland Castle and founded Cosin's Library, one of the beautiful buildings on the Palace Green in Durham.
You can see some of these cross slabs on display in the church and despite their age, you can make out some of the cross symbols on the slabs. Other slabs contained symbols that tell you a little about the person and their job such as a sword, a key and scissors. Fascinating stuff! I also noticed the use of Frosterley Marble on the font at the front of the church. Check out our Auckland Castle page for more on how the marble was created - another fascinating piece of history.
The church is still used for services, but is open from 9.30am until dusk for anyone to come in and have a look around. If you're in the area, of course a visit to Brancepeth Castle wouldn't be complete without a visit to the castle too. Check out the Brancepeth Castle website for details on open days.
How To Find St Brandon's Church
Contributed by Sandra Clemens
I love the great outdoors and have been a National Trust & English Heritage member for years. I also love going off the beaten track and finding places like Sharp's Folly or Rothley Castle which are hidden gems in Northumberland. My favourite recent hike was climbing Red Screes in the Lake District on a whim, not fully grasping how high 776m was. It was still an achievement to conquer a Wainwright walk and I hope to do more one day.More Places from Sandra
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