A History of the County of Durham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1928.
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The church of ST. OSWALD stands on an elevated and picturesque situation above the wooded bank of the Wear, the churchyard commanding a fine view of the Cathedral and city to the north-west. The site is an ancient one and fragments of pre-Conquest sculptured stones have been found, (fn. 1) but the oldest part of the existing structure dates only from the end of the 12th century. The building consists of chancel, 49 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. wide, north vestry and organ chamber, clearstoried nave, 81 ft. 6 in. by 20 ft. 4 in., with north and south aisles, and west tower 15 ft. by 12 ft., (fn. 2) all these measurements being internal. There were formerly north and south porches. (fn. 3) The aisles are the full length of the nave but differ in width, that on the north side being 12 ft. 6 in. and the other 15 ft. 8 in.
A great deal of alteration and rebuilding carried out in the 19th century has made nearly the whole of the outside of the church, with the exception of the tower and part of the north wall, of modern date, but it still preserves to a large extent its ancient appearance. The history of this later work may be thus summarised. In the first quarter of the century the building was declared in danger owing to the working of coal mines beneath, (fn. 4) and in 1834 it underwent a somewhat drastic restoration. The chancel, south aisle and the greater part of the north aisle were taken down and rebuilt, a vestry added on the north side of the chancel, the clearstory windows were renewed in an inferior style, the nave roof destroyed and a new one erected, an embattled parapet substituted for one of open work of very graceful design which then existed, and a new west window inserted in the tower. There was a second restoration in 1864, when the east end of the chancel was again rebuilt, an organ chamber added between the vestry and the north aisle, and the tower restored, all the windows being renewed. (fn. 5) The interior was restored in 1883 and a second vestry added to the east of the former one.
The earliest parts of the building are the chancel arch and the four easternmost bays of the nave arcades, which date from about 1195; the former chancel seems to have been of 14thcentury date, to which period the old part of the north aisle wall with two of its windows belongs; the two westernmost bays of the nave, the clearstory, and the tower date from the 15th century.
Nothing definite can be stated about the early church on the same site as there is no evidence in the existing masonry of any work older than c. 1195, but it is possible that the north-east and south-west angles of the nave may contain walling belonging to the older church. A new chancel was probably built round the old one at the same time or early in the 13th century, but was superseded a century later by the structure which subsisted down to 1834. The 14th century also saw the rebuilding of the north aisle wall, but no further change was made in the plan of the church till some time in the 15th century, probably about 1412, when the nave was extended westward two bays and a west tower added. The impost mouldings of the tower arch are apparently of late 12th-century date and are probably portions of the west end of the fabric then pulled down and used again in this position. (fn. 6)
The chancel being entirely new is of no antiquarian interest except as it reproduces ancient features. The plan of course follows the old lines, but little else can be said to be even a 'restoration.' (fn. 7) The east wall is faced with ashlar, but the north and south walls, like those of the rest of the building, are of rubble. (fn. 8) There are diagonal buttresses at the external angles, but the side walls are unbroken and terminate in straight parapets. The roof is of low pitch and lead covered. The east window is of four lights with reticulated tracery, and on the south side are three two-light windows with quatrefoils in the heads and a string at the side level. On the north side is a similar window at the east end now opening into the vestry, the western part of the wall being open to the organ chamber. There was originally a tall square-headed opening of two lights with low transom in the south-west corner, the bottom lights of which formed a low-side window, and a priest's doorway below the middle window, but neither of these features was reproduced in the rebuilding. (fn. 9) No ancient ritual arrangements have been preserved and all the walls are plastered internally. Some oak stall work of 15th-century date with traceried panels remains; but the chancel screen is a modern one of poor design erected in 1834. The chancel arch is pointed and of two chamfered orders to the nave, springing from half-round responds with carved capitals of late transitional type. On the chancel side the outer order is square and dies into the wall, and there is a hood mould on the nave side only.
The nave is of six bays, the arcades consisting of three semicircular and three pointed arches on each side, the round arch of the original fourth bay having been taken down when the nave was extended westward. The arcades are similar in character on both sides, the round arches springing from circular and the late pointed ones from octagonal piers, all with moulded capitals and bases. The eastern responds are keel-shaped and those at the west end half-octagonal. All the arches are of two chamfered orders with hood moulds towards the nave and spring from a height 12 ft. above the floor level. On the north side there is a transverse arch across the aisle opposite the first octagonal pier, with a buttress on the external wall, in line with the west end of the 12th-century nave. The two easternmost windows of the north aisle are old, though the mullions and tracery have been renewed; they are of two cinquefoiled lights and have segmental heads with hood moulds, and double chamfered jambs. A square-headed aumbry with rebated jambs remains at the east end of the north aisle wall: the door has gone.
The clearstory has five three-light windows on each side with four-centred heads and external hood moulds, separated by buttresses running up to the full height of the embattled parapet. The aisles have modern lean-to leaded roofs behind straight parapets and the nave roof is a flat pitched one of five bays corresponding with the clearstory windows. The roof destroyed in 1834 appears to have been a handsome one of hammerbeam type erected by William Catten, vicar in the early years of the 15th century. It was described by Surtees as a fine vaulted roof of wood, the rafters springing from brackets ornamented with angels bearing blank shields and joined with rose knots. On the centre knot was an inscription in gold letters on a blue ground 'Orate pro W. Catten, Vicr.' (fn. 10)
The north and south doorways are modern, that on the south side being in the 13th-century style, but in the wall above is a 15th-century niche with cinquefoiled ogee head and tracery over. Surtees mentions four arches in the south aisle 'apparently intended as sepulchral, but without effigy or inscription,' (fn. 11) and Sir Stephen Glynne in 1825 (fn. 12) noted an arch in the wall at the west end of the south aisle 'under which apparently was once a tomb.' All these disappeared when the aisle walls were destroyed, or before. The new walls were reduced in thickness.
The tower is of four stages with embattled parapet and diagonal buttresses, carried up its full height as angle pinnacles. It has been very much restored and all the windows and other external architectural features are modern. The belfry windows are pointed openings of two lights and the west window is of three lights. With the exception of a small single light opening in the second stage the north and south sides are blank below the belfry. The tower arch is a lofty pointed one of two chamfered orders without hood mould springing from the early impost mouldings already referred to, below which the chamfers are carried down the jambs. The first floor is carried by a ribbed vault with large circular well hole, but without wall ribs, and is approached by a staircase in the thickness of the wall starting in the south-east corner and returned along the west wall to the north-west angle. Many of the steps consist of mediaeval grave covers with crosses and various symbols, no fewer than twenty-four being used in the construction of the stairway. (fn. 13) Some of the grave slabs discovered in 1864 are now in the churchyard on the north side of the tower.
The font is modern and stands below the tower. Above the tower arch are the Royal Arms of the Stuart Sovereigns. The pulpit and all the other fittings are also modern. In the north aisle is a good renaissance mural monument to Christopher Chayter of Butterby (d. 1592) and at the east end of the south aisle others to Jarrardus Salvin of Croxdale (d. 1663) with arms, helm, and crest, (fn. 14) and to George Smith of Burnhall (d. 1756).
There is no ancient glass, but Surtees mentions 'some remains' in the windows of the north aisle, including the arms of Nevill, and a roundel with its sacred monogram. A perfect shield with the arms of Lumley had been destroyed a few years before. (fn. 15)
There is a ring of six bells, five of which were cast by Christopher Hodgson in 1694. The second is a recasting of a similar bell by Gillett & Co. in 1885. All the old bells bear inscriptions in Roman characters with coins of different sizes between the words. (fn. 16)
The plate (fn. 17) consists of a small silver-gilt cup with domed cover, originally a secular drinking vessel, without marks, but probably of 16thcentury date, inscribed 'Haec Calix est novum Testamentum in Sanguine meo pro vobis funditur et pro multis in remissio'em peccatorum'; a silver-gilt paten of 1699, inscribed 'Hoc est corpus meum quod pro vobis frangitur,' and on the back 'G. Brown,' with the maker's mark R.M; a silver-gilt alms dish of 1701, with the mark of John Bodington, inscribed 'The Gift of John Sedgwicke Esq. A.D. 1699 to St. Oswald's Church in Durham'; two silver collecting basins of 1736, the first made at Newcastle and inscribed 'The Gift of E. Lambton,' and the second 'The Gift of David Dixon'; and two silver-gilt chalices and patens of 1865.
The head of a mediaeval processional cross, probably of late 15th-century date, found about the middle of the last century in a mail coach in an hotel yard in Durham, belongs to St. Oswald's. (fn. 18) The figure of Our Lord, and those of the Blessed Virgin and St. John, together with four angels at the ends of the arms, are of white metal, the cross and arms being gilded.
The registers begin in 1538, but there is a gap of six years between 1592 and 1598. They have been printed down to 1751. (fn. 19)
The churchyard, which is very extensive, lies chiefly on the north and south sides of the building, with entrances from the road, which bounds it on the east side, at the north-east and south-east corners. A new detached burial ground on the opposite side of the road further south was consecrated in 1889.
The church of ST. MARGARET stands on high ground near the bottom of Crossgate, above the left bank of the river, immediately opposite the castle, and consists of a chancel 25 ft. by 22 ft., with north vestry and organ chamber, and south chapel 13 ft. 6 in. wide, clearstoried nave 46 ft. by 24 ft., with north and south aisles, north and south porches, and west tower 11 ft. square, all these measurements being internal.
The oldest parts of the building are the south arcade of the nave and parts of the west wall to the north and south of the tower, which date from the 12th century and are all that remains of the original church of that period. This early church consisted of a nave of the same size as at present, a south aisle, short chancel, and possibly a small west tower. There was also a nave clearstory, one of the windows of which still remains on the south side immediately above the westernmost arch of the arcade. The detail of the arcade itself is fairly late in style, and the date of the erection of the building may have been about 1150. The church was enlarged c. 1195 by the addition of a north aisle and the rebuilding of the chancel on a larger scale, the present north arcade and chancel arch dating from this period. The south aisle was rebuilt in the 14th century during the episcopate of Richard de Bury, and the clearstory windows on this side, recently renewed, are said to have been of this date. Those on the north side, which still remain, are, however, of the 15th century, when either they were inserted or the clearstory wall rebuilt, the church at the same time undergoing alterations and additions. The chapel (fn. 20) or aisle on the south side of the chancel, which is slightly wider than the south aisle of the nave, is of 15th-century date, and an arch on the west end of the north wall of the chancel suggests that the north aisle of the nave was extended eastward to half the length of the quire at the same time. The existing tower, whether an addition or a rebuilding, belongs also to the 15th century, and probably a porch or porches were also built. The plan then assumed more or less its present shape, with the exception of the buildings north of the chancel, which are entirely modern. Some repairs appear to have been done in 1699, that date occurring on a spout head on the south side, (fn. 21) but no structural changes of any importance seem to have been made till the latter half of the 19th century. The building, however, experienced the usual internal vicissitudes of the 18th and early 19th centuries, galleries being erected at the west end and in the north aisle, the latter in 1824 with a separate external entrance. (fn. 22) The east window was 'a modern sash,' and the rest of the windows on the north and south of the church had been renewed about the middle of the last century. (fn. 23) In 1880 the building underwent an extensive restoration, the whole of the north aisle being taken down and widened, and the vestry and organ chamber added at its east end. New porches were erected, new windows inserted, except in the north side of the clearstory, the galleries removed, and the interior generally renovated. The interior of the tower was repaired in 1897.
The old walling is all of rubble, and the roofs are of flat pitch covered with lead behind straight parapets. The east window of the chancel is modern and of five lights with perpendicular tracery, and there are two modern square-headed clearstory windows on the south side. Internally the chancel is open to the aisle on the south by a wide pointed arch of two hollow chamfered orders dying into the wall at the springing, and the lower half of the wall is reduced in thickness. The aisle is the full length of the chancel, the east walls being flush outside, and is lighted by two modern windows on the south and one at the east end. The north wall of the chancel is pierced at its west end by the arch already referred to, which is of two hollow chamfered orders, and now opens to the organ chamber. The east end of the wall contains two aumbries, one oblong in shape, above which, at a height of about 7 ft. from the sanctuary floor, is a plain round-headed window, now built up, with wide internal splay, the only architectural feature of the late 12th-century chancel now remaining with the exception of the chancel arch. The roof is a modern one of three bays, and the fittings are all modern.
The chancel arch is very lofty and elliptical in form, and consists of two orders slightly chamfered on the edge, with hood mould towards the nave continued north and south along the wall. The opening is 15 ft. wide, and the inner order springs from corbelled shafts with cushion capitals, the outer order going down to the ground. The shafts are modern restorations, and the jambs, along with much of the walling on either side, including the two squints, have also been renewed. The squint on the south side of the arch is so contrived as to afford a view not only of the high altar from the south aisle, but also of that of the chantry altar from the nave. The chancel arch, having been weakened by the alterations in the 15th century, consequent, no doubt, on its excessive height and extreme flatness, was strengthened by squinch work on either side and by the erection of a pointed relieving arch above it which shows on the east side towards the chancel.
The south arcade of the nave consists of four semicircular arches of a single order, square to the aisle but slightly chamfered towards the nave, springing at a height of 8 ft. 10 in. from circular piers and half-round responds. The first and second piers from the east and the western respond have scalloped capitals and chamfered abaci; the capital of the third pier is plain, and that of the eastern respond has an incipient volute ornament with a head facing west. The piers are 27 in. in diameter, and have been renewed in places, the moulded bases being all modern restorations. The arches have hood moulds on the nave side only. The aisle is 10 ft. 3 in. wide, and is lighted by three modern two-light windows.
The north arcade consists of four semicircular arches of two chamfered orders, springing at a height of 13 ft. from circular piers and keel-shaped responds, all with moulded capitals and bases. There is a hood mould towards the nave, and the piers, which are 22 in. in diameter, have been a good deal restored, all the bases, like those on the south side, being new. The eastern respond has been entirely rebuilt. The greater height and light proportions of the north arcade are in strong contrast to the older work. The north aisle is described as being originally 'very narrow but having no ancient work in it.' (fn. 24) As rebuilt, it is 13 ft. wide, with three windows on the north side and one at the west end.
The nave roof is a modern one of six bays, and the clearstory has three new windows of two trefoiled lights on the south side, with fourcentred heads and hood moulds. The western 12th-century clearstory window is at a very much lower level, its sill being immediately above the crown of the arch of the arcade and its head externally about half the height of the later openings. It has no hood mould, and the head is in three stones. A portion of weathering above the opening apparently shows the height of the original wall. On the north side there are two unrestored clearstory windows, each of two plain lights with four-centred heads, but without hood moulds. The walls internally are all plastered except at the west end, where the masonry is left bare.
The tower is of four stages, each slightly setting back, and terminates in an embattled parapet with angle pinnacles. It is built of coursed rough stones with quoins at the angles, and has a projecting vice in the south-east corner, sloping back below the belfry stage. The west window is a pointed one of two cinquefoiled lights cutting into the string between the first and second stages, the sill being 10 ft. above the ground. On the north and south sides the two lower stages are blank, the third having a small square-headed opening. The belfry windows are pointed openings of two lights. The tower arch is a lofty one of two hollow chamfered orders dying into the wall at the springing, and is the full width of the tower. The first floor is carried on a groined vault with hollow chamfered ribs, at the intersection of which is a blank shield.
The font stands below the tower and consists of a circular bowl of Frosterley marble on a cylindrical shaft. It is lined with lead and may be of late 12th-century date. The pulpit and seating are of oak and date from the time of the last restoration.
In the floor of the nave is a blue stone slab to Sir John Duck, bart. (d. 1691), with arms, helm, crest and mantling; and in the chancel floor is an armorial slab in memory of Mary, widow of Thomas Mascall (d. 1736). The chancel also contains various 18th and early 19th century mural monuments. (fn. 25)
There is a ring of three bells, two of which are probably of 15th-century date. The third was cast in 1624. The inscriptions are: (1) 'Vox Agustini Sonet in Aure Dei'; (2) 'Sauncta Mergareta Ora Pro Nobis'; (3) 'Jesus be our Speed Anno Domini 1624.' (fn. 26)
The plate (fn. 27) consists of a chalice and cover, the former being inscribed 'Calix Benedicttionis Sanctae Margaretae Dunelmensis Anno Domini 1675,' and the latter 'Anno Domini 1675' (fn. 28); a paten of three feet made by Isaac Cookson, of Newcastle, without date letter, but inscribed '1753, Given to the Chapel of Saint Margaret in Crossgate for ever'; and two chalices, two patens, and a flagon of 1849, all inscribed 'Sanctae Margaritae Capella Dunelmii MDCCCL.'
The registers begin in 1558. The marriage entries have been printed down to 1812. (fn. 29) There is a complete set of vestry books in seven volumes, beginning in 1665.
The church stands high above the road, which passes close to it on the north side, the churchyard being chiefly to the south. The churchyard was extended in 1820 by the purchase of a large orchard in South Street, (fn. 30) and in 1845 the Dean and Chapter gave about two acres attached to the church for a further enlargement. (fn. 31)
The church of ST. OSWALD, Elvet, with its chapels, (fn. 32) was granted by Bishop Hugh Pudsey, subject to the incumbent's life interest, to the Prior and Convent on condition that they should maintain priests at the mother church and at the chapels of Witton and Croxdale. In 1359 Bishop Hatfield ordered that the vicar of St. Oswald's should have the manse by the churchyard which he occupied, 16 marks of silver a year, two wainloads of hay, various minor profits and the offerings, baptismal and other, except from the vills of Croxdale, Sunderland and Beautrove. After the Dissolution the patronage was vested in the Dean and Chapter of Durham.
The earliest chantry in this church was that of Our Lady, founded (fn. 33) and endowed by Ralph, chaplain of St. Oswald, at the altar of the B.V. Mary at the south of the church, probably in the 13th century. The patronage of the chantry after the founder's death was vested in the Prior and Convent of Durham. There were later augmentations (fn. 34) in 1360 and 1392. The gross annual value (fn. 35) at the Dissolution was £6 3s. 4d., the net about £5 9s.
The second chantry in this church was that of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, founded by a member of the Elvet family in 1404, as appears from a licence from Bishop Skirlaw to Richard de Elvet, clerk, John de Elvet, clerk, and Gilbert Elvet. The endowment included the manor of Edderacres in Easington parish, and messuages in Elvet, 'Flesshewergate' and elsewhere. (fn. 36) The patronage was vested in the heirs of the founder, Gilbert de Elvet. The clear value (fn. 37) at the Dissolution, less reprises, was estimated at £11 8s. 10d. In 1608 the King granted to Simon Wiseman and Richard Mare the lands of this chantry.
A third foundation was that of the Rood Mass priest, the clear yearly value (fn. 38) of which at the Dissolution, less reprises, was £3 7s. 8d. There were also two gilds attached to this church, one of St. Oswald, (fn. 39) and the other of the Holy Trinity, and in 1472 the Prior of Durham demised to John Tange, alderman, and Thomas Wade and Thomas Watson, brethren of the gild of the Holy Trinity, three waste burgages in New Elvet, on which the alderman and brethren of the gild proposed to build their new gild house. In this gild house the hostiller of the Priory of Durham should have full liberty to hold his borough court of Elvet. (fn. 40)
The chapel of ST. MARGARET, originally dependent on the Church of St. Oswald, was probably founded in the 12th century. In 1384 the Prior and Convent authorised the performance of all sacramental rites in the chapel, except marriage and burial, and in 1431 these exceptions were removed and a commission issued for the consecration of the chapel and cemetery. (fn. 43) For all practical purposes St. Margaret's thus became a separate parish, though a reminder of its old status was found in the small dues paid to the mother church, as, for example, 'holly bread silver' and in the attendance of one of the churchwardens of St. Margaret's at St. Oswald's on occasions of special ceremony. (fn. 44) The patronage after the Dissolution was vested in the Dean and Chapter of Durham.
Within this chapel was a chantry of Our Lady, founded (fn. 45) by one Ralph before 1343. In 1338 a tenement in Crossgate was charged with the provision of two lbs. of wax for two lights to burn before the altar of St. Mary, and in 1355 a burgage in South Street was charged with 12d. due to the chaplain of St. Mary's altar. At the Dissolution the gross revenue (fn. 46) of the chantry of Our Lady was £7 13s. 4d., and the clear value, less reprises, £5 3s. 7½d. Benefactions (fn. 47) to the lights in St. Margaret's chapel are found in 1327 and 1328, and in the 16th century several foundations for obits (fn. 48) and anniversaries existed here. The curates of this chapel were at one time almost dependent on the offerings and dues of the parishioners, but by the action of the Dean and Chapter of Durham and the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty the value of the chapelry has been considerably increased. There was in Framwellgate before the Reformation a Gild of St. Margaret (fn. 49) probably connected with this church, and as early as 1316 we hear of a burgage in Framwellgate called the 'Gyldhous.' This was probably the burgage sometime belonging to the Gild of St. Margaret which in 1574 lay to the north of the burgage called Paynter's Place. (fn. 50)
The division of the ecclesiastical parish was foreshadowed in 1826 by the building of a chapel of ease at Shincliffe, (fn. 51) dedicated to the honour of St. Mary the Virgin, the parish of Shincliffe being created five years later. (fn. 52) Sunderland Bridge and Hett (from the parish of Merrington) were next formed into the district chapelry of Croxdale in 1843, (fn. 53) and in 1858 part of the chapelry of St. Margaret's was assigned to the new district of St. Cuthbert, (fn. 54) the church of which was built in 1862. A still further alteration was made in St. Margaret's in 1871 by the building of the chapel of ease of St. Aidan, and in 1896, when a chapel of ease was built and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. (fn. 55) At Broom, the church of St. Edmund, king and martyr, was built in 1879, when a parish was formed, and a further mission chapel of St. Katherine was set up in 1883.