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Billingham, County Durham

Church of St Cuthbert, Billingham

Last Updated:

2 Feb 2024

Billingham, County Durham

This is a

Church, Place of Worship

54.594168, -1.293382

Founded in 

9th century

Current status is

Extant

Designer (if known):

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Listed Grade I

The Church of St Cuthbert at Billingham was absolutely stunning in the brisk morning sunshine a few weeks ago. It's one of the earliest surviving churches in use in the region.

It was first established in the 9th century by Ecgred, the Bishop of Lindisfarne until 845. There was potentially a Christian presence here even earlier, with the fragments of an 8th century cross inside. I've been keen to find out exactly why Billingham was chosen as the site of the church, but tradition and earlier tales could be the reason.

A village developed around the church soon after giving rise to Billingham, and a Catholic community remained here well after the reformation. 22 men from Billingham joined the Northern Rebellions resenting the violent religious reforms, and at least a few families remained Catholic into the 18th century here.

Like most places of worship, St Cuthberts truly is a patchwork of constructions spanning centuries. The nave is the oldest element from the 9th century, while the bottom part of the tower is from the 10th. A breakdown is provided by the listing below, and I have tweeted a diagram here: https://x.com/neheritagelib/status/1753030725111079055?s=20

Listing Description (if available)

Tower of C10, top added late C14. Nave probably C9 but with north aisle and clerestory of late C12, south aisle of C13 and clerestory late C14, perhaps at time of addition to tower. Coursed rubble masonry, nave and tower battlemented. Original openings in tower, two-light with baluster shaft and pierced spandrel in bell stage. Small arch to nave. Chancel rebuilt 1939 by Charlewood of Newcastle. Early C17 screen and font cover.

Both plans above illustrate Billingham village between 1838 and 1859. It's quite rare to see a surviving tithe plan in this detail. The church is seen in plot 91, directly adjacent to the vicarage which is the long rectangular building. Billingham retained a similar aesthetic throughout the 19th century, with very few additions or changes between these decades. A toll bar features on the road to Norton.

Even when we reach the 1890s, the village features little change apart from the addition and expansion of a few buildings. The Wesleyan chapel was rebuilt, while new outbuildings were constructed around John Heslop's brewery which later became Billingham Picture House.

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A wide shot of St Cuthberts, with the 10th century tower and 13th century south aisle in the foreground.

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The beautiful clock face still features on the tower, albeit weathered.

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The clock face can be seen much easier on this undated shot, featuring the rebuilt chancel.

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