St. James’ Church

St. James' ChurchContacts

Priest in charge: Revd Elisheva Mechanic
1 Vicarage Close
Howden-le-Wear, Crook, DL158RB
Tel: 01388 768898
Associate Ministers: Revd Roni Mechanic and Canon Trevor Pitt, Tel: 01388 488898


Reader: Derek Jago, Tel: 01388 458358.


Mrs M Swan, Bedburn Old Hall, Tel: 01388 488249.

Assistant Churchwardens:   

Mrs V Bartlett – Coronation Cottage Tel: 01388 488600

Mrs J Monk – Longfield House Tel: 01388 488325

Organist: Mr I Bonas, Bedburn Hal, Tel: 01388 488231. ________________________________________________________

Church Services

Most of this information is taken from the St.James’ Church fact sheet, available at the back of the church. This was produced by a sub committee of the Parochial Church Council chaired by Mavis Brown-Humes. Illustrations by Rosanna Tooley. Some of the text is taken from an article loaned by Mavis Brown-Humes. Our thanks to the Church for permission to use this material.

History of the Church

There are more photographs on the St. James’ Gallery page and there is a comprehensive description, available in the church, of the various stone grave covers that are now affixed to the walls.

The Church was founded around 1180 as a Chapel of Ease for St. Andrew’s Auckland. It is half a mile east of the village. The reason for this has always been a mystery. The church is stone built and was originally rectangular in shape. The south transept was added later probably as a chantry chapel, and the north transept later still, giving the building its present cruciform plan.

Plan of the Church

The Font. Photograph by Derek Toon(1) The font is thought to be contemporary with the old church, circa 1180. The carved wooden cover was added in 1975.






(2) The west window
was opened up in the 17th century.

(3) The nave has four monuments on the north wall dating from circa 1769 to 1940. The roof was restored in 1960-1.

Carved stone in wall of north transept. Photograph by Derek Toon (4) The North Transept. In the north wall is a 13th century window. There is a wooden hatchment of the Surtees family in the east wall.The image is of a stone carving in the west wall of the north transept. The organ was installed in 1985. It was built by Nelson of Durham circa 1810 and rebuilt and extended by H.A. Prested of Durham. The restored 18th century box pew can be seen in front of the vestry screen and was erected in 1992.




(5) The pulpit
was a gift of Mr. Henry Chaytor of Witton Castle and installed in 1885. The tiles in the panels illustrate stories from Pilgrim’ Progress.

The chancel and east window. Photograph by Derek Toon(6) The chancel is 13th century (this is the part of the east end of the church where the altar is placed).On the north wall is a grey limestone slab containing the matrix of a brass cross with trefoiled ends dating from the 14th century. At the base of the shaft there has been an animal of some sort, possibly a lion couchant. On the south wall there is a large sandstone slab dated at about 1250 because of the round-leaf trefoils flanking the shaft of the cross. These designs have been interpreted as emblems of the Passion. Although it has been implied that the spear and dice box at the foot of the cross “cast aspersions on the character of the priest interred beneath”. The chancel roof is supported by four corbels: the two on the south have carvings of the arms of the See of Durham and of the Surtees family, whereas the two on the north side have carvings of the arms of the Blenkinsopp and Rawlings families and of a griffin of unknown origin. The family tomb of the Blenkinsopps of Hoppyland Hall lies between the choir stalls. The church ‘suffered greatly from the restoration’ in 1883-4 when the chancel roof was made out of cement, supported by iron railway sleepers and drainpipes. This roof became cracked in the summer heat and had to be removed in 1908 when a new roof was provided. The roof was restored in 1960-1. Inside, the oak barrelled roof was built in 1908. The beautiful stained glass in three lights of the east window was designed and made by L.C. Evetts of Woolsington Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, and installed in 1949 in memory of a former parishioner. It depicts Christ’s Passion with various events leading up to Easter Day. “W.W.” is a monogram of the Greek letters alpha and omega. The sockets for the rood screen can still be seen below the chancel arch.

(7) The South Transept. The south transept was possibly added to the nave to serve as a chantry chapel. In the east wall is a blocked up, square-headed priest’s doorway.The lintels inside and out are grave covers. A part of a walled up window is to be seen between the south wall of the nave and the west wall of the transept. In the east wall is a square cupboard or recess (aumbrey) to hold the sacred vessels. In there is a round headed piscina for washing the Communion vessels set close to where an altar must have stood when this was a chantry chapel.

The Sundial above the south porch door. Photograph by Derek Toon

(8) The Porch. The south doorway is Norman in style but has been reconstructed. The door is ancient, possibly 17th century.Within the porch, the seats are formed of old grave covers. Over the porch there is a sundial inscribed – ‘Man fleeth as it were a shadow. 1803’, a timely reminder that “man hath a short time to live”.




Effigy of a lady beneath west wall of south transept

(9) Outside the church. Leaving the porch and turning left, there is, beneath the west wall of the south transept, two monumental stones protruding; one is mutilated. It is an effigy of a lady (possibly a member of the Eure family) with her head on a cushion and her hands folded in prayer; the other stone has a floriated cross of beautiful design. The monuments, regarded as the most remarkable features of the Church, are possibly 13th or 14th century and are thought to have been inserted after the church was built, hereby fulfilling the wish of the founder of the chantry chapel that they should “lie within the wall’.


(10) Continuing eastwards
, there is a panoramic view down the valley of the River Wear to Witton-le-Wear, Bishop Auckland and Westerton Hill.

(11) The north transept is lit by a window of fine workmanship, with hood mouldings outside, terminating in mask heads. The window is circa 1300, with three stepped and cusped lancets under one pointed arch. There is “a very pretty battlemented twin bellcott” of the 17th century at the western end of the church.

Gravestones. Photograph by Derek Toon(12) Gravestones. The oldest surviving gravestones in the graveyard are southwest of the porch; four are older than AD1725. One is to Anthony Hogshon of High Wham, who died in 1716, and another is to Margaret Hodgshon, also of High Wham, who died in 1721.In the northeast corner of the churchyard rested the bodies of twenty-seven German POWs who died from influenza in 1918.Grave covers brought to light in 1883-4 were, at this time, placed in the walls, some of them ornamented to show the various occupations of the dead: swords, hammers, blacksmiths’ tongs, coulter (?) and share of a plough, etc. Some grave covers are used to provide seats in the porch. The door, which is studded with iron, is very ancient. Of the two bells hanging in the church, one appears to have been stolen in the  century, probably on account of the large amount of silver that is known was used in its casting.  The bell was replaced. A silver chalice of ancient date has also disappeared.

The vicars. Photograph by Derek ToonThe Church registers date from the 1580s. The first recorded priest was The Rev. Robert Melmorbie, since when there have been thirty curates and incumbents. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Print Friendly