top of page

Ebchester, County Durham

St Ebba's Church, Ebchester

Last Updated:

27 Jul 2023

Ebchester, County Durham

This is a

Church

54.893696, -1.839924

Founded in 

12th c

Current status is

Extant

Designer (if known):

C. H. Fowler (rebuild)

4076554724_b6df6c95d4.jpg

Listed Grade II*

Around this area, you across a lot of buildings made of Roman quarried stone. St Ebba’s at Ebchester is certainly no exception, standing right on top of an old Roman fort!

Much of what we see is the rebuild of 1892 and the 1910 tower, however much of the core dates from the 12th century. The first iteration was founded in the late 1100s under the Bishop Puiset of Durham, on land provided by the Diocese to Sherburn Hospital. Priests from Sherburn would serve the church, with both William and Robert de Ebchester becoming priors of Durham in 1446 and 1478.

The church is devoted to St Ebba a noblewoman and abbess who presided over Coldingham Priory near Berwick on the Scottish Borders. When this church was founded, dedication to a regional saint was found to be acceptable.

Stone was sourced from the Vindomara fort, and a Roman altar can still be seen built into the porch wall. Sadly I didn't have chance to go inside, however looking at photos its medieval ambience is still apparently with a low timber roof and boxy rectangular nave.

Vindomara Fort stands under the church, as well as much of Front Street and the west of the road. The war memorial outside the church is also listed.

The iron gate is a gorgeous little addition too!

Listing Description (if available)

"(East side, off) Ebchester 17/48 Church of St. Ebba 6/6/51 (Formerly listed as St Ebba's Church) GV II* Parish church. C12, extensively rebuilt in 1892 by C.H. Fowler; tower added and nave extended and other work done in 1910 by G.T. Wilson. Sandstone rubble, except for lower course of massive blocks; some blocks and quoins of coarse sandstone; tower snecked sandstone; ashlar dressings; stone-flagged roof. Restorations in Romanesque style with round-headed windows, except for Perpendicular-style west window. Nave with north tower and boiler-room; chancel with south vestry, choir-vestry and organ chamber. 3-stage tower with single buttress has double doors in triple-chamfered round-headed surround. Small window above; clock in raised surrounding mould in next stage and belfry opening above, all under dripmoulds. Top cornice and parapet, stepped up at corners, with roll moulding. 4-bay nave and lower 3-bay chancel have mostly small windows in north and south walls, slightly chamfered except in west. Original windows survive in east bay of chancel, and some others in north wall; large east window; and large Perpendicular west window. Part of Roman altar built into west wall. Gabled bellcote has paired 2-centred-arched openings. Stone cross finials. Interior: sandstone rubble except for large blocks in first course and patches of coursed masonry, with ashlar dressings; collar-truss roof; low-pitched panelled chancel roof with painted decoration on ribs and frieze. East window has moulded round arch on shafts with scallop capitals; other windows have deeply-splayed reveals and stepped sills with inserted lintels in chancel; restored windows copy originals. Plain semicircular chancel arch on impost bands. Wide rectangular aumbry in wall to left of altar has top hinge-pins and rebated surround. Rerearch to west window. Round-headed tower-arch has chamfered head. Glass in east window to Robert S. Surtees, died 1864, and Anthony Surtees died 1871; Gothic style. Later C19 glass in west window. Font in style of Norman pillar has moulded narrow bowl on stout irregular pedestal which tapers towards base. Monuments include 2 in chancel; in memory of Anthony Surtees of Hamsterley Hall died 1838, and his wife Alice died 1837; white marble, with drapery and Prince of Wales feathers, on black mount; and a white marble slab in black marble frame, signed Davies and Jopling, with guttae, and draped urn, commemorating Robert and Ann Surtees of Milk Well Burn, died 1811. Painted Creed, Commandments and Our Father panels on east wall. Re-used Roman altar built into porch wall. The church is built within the Roman fort Vindomora."

Both maps above illustrate the church and its environs through the latter half of the 19th century.

Post-Roman times, the village has always been a small settlement and only recently felt like more of a conurbation of industrial Consett. The map surveyed in 1857 delivers this well, with the church surrounded by typical village amenities such as Ebchester Mill, farmhouses and the local well. A Wesleyan Methodist Chapel had also been constructed in the village, which follows the trend for much of the coaly North East. There was a colliery just north of the village between the 1830s and 1860s, which may provide the need for this chapel (https://www.northeastheritagelibrary.co.uk/coalsarchive/ebc01a/ebchester-main-colliery).

By the 1890s, the railway and further small scale coal mining had reached Ebchester on top of Ebchester Hill. This provided the impetus for expansion, though it hadn't occured at this point except for a few additional cottages and Ebchester Hall, now a nursing home.

The Ordnance Survey map from 1923 provides greater insight into the expansion of the village. Aged miners homes had been constructed at the north end of the village, as well as more local amenities like a reading room and smithy (though this may have just been unlabelled in previous maps).

4076554724_b6df6c95d4.jpg

St Ebba's in 2023, with the listed War Memorial also shown.

4076554724_b6df6c95d4.jpg

The beautiful iron gate and lychgate in front of the church in 2023

4076554724_b6df6c95d4.jpg

bottom of page