The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham: Volume 2, Chester Ward. Originally published by Nichols and Son, London, 1820.
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CHAPELRY OF EBCHESTER.
The Darwent separates the Chapelry of Ebchester from Northumberland on the North-West; on every other point this small district is surrounded by the Chapelry of Medomsley.
From Medomsley the ground falls gradually towards the North. Ebchester stands at the foot of a long descent, yet on the edge of a still steeper declivity. Its cottages and trees are scattered along a lofty brow overhanging the green haugh-lands of the Darwent. On the very edge of the steep the vallum of a Roman station is still extremely distinct, and the little Chapel of Ebchester, a farmhold, and a few thatched cottages stand within the very area of the ancient Vindomora—if Vindomora it be, for the point is by no means stated as beyond controversy. Premising that I pay considerable deference to the authority of Richard, the Monk of Cirencester, his fourth Iter has (fn. 1), ad Tisam (Piersbridge); Vinovio XII.; Epiaco XVIII. . . .; Ad Murum (probably Halton Chesters, on the very wall); and his fifth Iter—Bremenium (Riechester); Corstoplio xx (Corbridge); Vindomora viiii. . . .; Cattaractoni XXII (Catterick); Eboraco, &c. Now as no one doubts that Vinovium is Binchester or Corstopilum Corbridge, we have betwixt Binchester and the Wall two stations, which must, I think, infallibly be identified with Lanchester and Ebchester; and if similarity of sound do not fix Epiacum at the latter, the distance will much better agree with calling Ebchester Vindomora—from Corstopitum to Vindomora nine miles: it is actually (from Corbridge to Ebchester) about nine statute miles; and nineteen miles, the distance stated from Vinovium, will answer nearly as well. The vestiges of the station at Ebchester (never probably so important as that of Lanchester (fn. 2) ) are rendered much less distinct from the circumstance of its very site being occupied by buildings. The vallum and agger are most perfect on the North, where they stretch along the very edge of the hill towards the river for a hundred and sixty paces. The North-West angle is perfect, and part of the Western agger, though cut through by roads and foot-paths. On the South, also, the vallum is extremely distinguishable, just within the Southern wall of the Church-yard, part of which at least seems built out of the ruins of the Roman ramparts, and the moss-grown crumbling walls of some neighbouring cottages on the West betray a similar origin. The great road which leads to this station from the South, and which Warburton (fn. 3) saw broad and distinct before the enclosures, may be still partially traced, and “at the distance of a Roman mile and a half to the South (according to Hunter) the foundation of a square watch-tower was discovered about six or eight yards West of the military way; the stones were cemented with lime:” and in 1727 Dr. Hunter discovered “a little to the South of the South-West angle of the ramparts, part of the aqueduct that supplied the baths; it was composed of two erected flat stones cemented into two niches cut in one laid flat at the bottom.”
Many scattered remains of sepulchral and other monuments may be still observed built up in several of the houses of Ebchester. In the Philos. Trans. N° 278, Dr. Hunter notices an altar, but without legible inscription, and a stone lying near the church-door, sculptured with a very obscure figure, presumed to be habited in the Roman toga, and on each side a dolphin, with some other indistinct ornaments. Camden places amongst the Lanchester Inscriptions, a sepulchral stone inscribed Have (ave (fn. 4) ). He also mentions, as discovered here, a small altar inscribed to the local deity Vitires, . . . Vit . . . . Mximvs Vot Solvit On one face of the altar is a boar, and on the other a toad (fn. 5). Camden also mentions an urn nearly a yard in height, yet not above seven inches wide, with a small cup or chalice in its centre; probably intended to contain a funeral oblation of wine and milk. Several stones of the centurial kind have been discovered, one of which Horsley says, bore the name of the fifth cohort of a legion. Another centurial stone is engraved in Horsley, extremely, he observes, “like what masons call trough-stones; a circumstance which has doubtless occasioned the destruction of many a reverend fragment, thrust into a wall or the gabel of a house.” He mentions four other centurial stones built up in dwelling-houses, and conjectures, from their number, that this fort on the Darwent was built by the legionary cohorts (fn. 6), who inserted these inscriptions on the face of the ramparts. Other fragments mentioned by Horsley, are a stone on the outside of a garden wall, vv NB. Ocem. VIT. which he labours to make a dedication, Numinibus Oceani ob vitam servatam.—Væ IVL. GN. NVS ACT. COH. IIII. BR. Antonniæ. LLM. (Minervæ Julius Gnenius Actarius Cohortis quartæ Brittonum Antoniniæ votum solvit libentissime merito.) This (which is now in the Cathedral Library at Durham) is placed by Horsley amongst the Northumberland inscriptions, but it is plain from Hunter, that Dr. Montagu, Dean of Durham, removed it from the corner of a barn at Ebchester. Since the days of Horsley and Gale a few additional memorials of the station have been discovered. Three inscriptions were fixed on the wall of the Parsonage by the Rev, Mr. Jefferson : 1. an altar of the usual form, very evidently dedicated to Mars (Deo Mart . . . Ant Avg Imp.) by a soldier under one of the Antonines; a stone inscribed S. Var? and another Coh. V. In the Avail of another house is also a ceriturial stone (if it be not one of those mentioned by Horsley), Coh. V. VI . . . . (not impossibly Cohors V. of the sixth legion, Victrix, which lay at York. In 1784 the wash of the Darwent during a flood discovered a perfect and curious altar, which fortunately fell into the hands of the accomplished owner of Hamsterley, Henry Swinburne, Esq. whose description of this relique may be seen in the Gent. Mag. 1784 (fn. 7). I will not attempt to decypher the inscription, which perplexed Mr. Swinburne, but it is probably a dedication to some local deity (Deo. Verno. Tono Cocid Vir . . III . . . .); perhaps by one Cocidius, whose actual titles and military rank probably close the inscription.
The history of Ebchester subsequent to its Roman æra may be very briefly told. St. Ebba (fn. 8), a royal Northumbrian virgin, is said to have founded a Monastery on the Darwent side, about 660 (fn. 9). The convent of Ebba, if ever it existed, was destroyed by the Danes. Five centuries later Ebchester lay in waste and forest; only a solitary hermit had perhaps found a cell amongst the mouldering ruins of the Roman Vindomora. Hugh Pudsey granted to his infant foundation of Sherburn, “Ebchester, the place of anchorets on the Darwent (which river divides our forest from that of our neighbours), for the pasture of animals for the use of the sick brethren, and for the maintenance of their shepherds in the same place:” he added. “licence to till one carucate of eightscore acres of the Bishop's land newly disforested;” (fn. 10) and to the house of Sherburn (fn. 11) the advowson of the Church of Ebchester and a considerable portion of land (held by lease under the Master and brethren) still belong.
The ancient Latons and Tilliols, whose descent has been stated, vol. I. p. 215, held some lands in Ebchester under the Hospital, which descended to their representatives the Musgraves (fn. 12).
By Ind. 13 July, 10 Jac. 1612, Edward Musgrave, of Abbeyholme, alienated his half messuage called the Broome Hill, to Robert Smith, whose daughter Jane married John Joblin (fn. 13) Edward Musgrave alienated the other moiety of the Broome Hill (worth 2l. 66s. 8d. per annum) to William Smith, who conveyed to John Fewster (fn. 14).
The Hill, a handsome tenement on the ascent of the bank to the South of Ebchester, has been for several descents the property of the Johnsons (fn. 15), and now belongs to the children of the late Fewster Johnson, Esq.
The great Northern Watling Street was doubtless tracked by both Dane and Saxon long after Epiacum and Vindomora were in ruins. Hutchinson, with great probability (though I know not on what precise authority), brings King David over Ebchester Bridge (fn. 16) in 1346 (fn. 17). King Edward seems to have nearly followed the same track in pursuit of the elusive Scots (fn. 18) —“Queis opimus, fallere et effugere erat triumphus.” Much more certainly the Bluecaps, under Lesly, took the same route.
In 1644, Feb. 28, the Scots “army marched to the water of Darwent, and with difficulty got their foot by files over a tree-bridge at Ebchester, half over-night, and the rest next day; so that they all passed that night on the field.” (fn. 19)
Which retains its ancient dedication to St. Ebbe, stands within the South-Western angle of the Roman station. The structure consists of a low nave and chancel, and a South porch : the chancel opens under a round arch. The old lights are narrow lancets, mixed with modern sash-windows (fn. 20).
On a handsome mural monument of marble, against the South wall of the nave:
In the burial-ground of this church-yard
are interred the bodies of
Robert Surtees, of Milkwell Burn,
in the county of Durham, Esq.
and Ann Surtees his wife.
The former died on the 5th day of July 1811,
the latter on the 6th of June in the same year,
They were both much respected
in this neighbourhood.
The church-yard contains memorials of a numerous race of Surtees's of two different stocks, the Milkwell-burn and Cronywell.
On an altar-tomb opposite the South porch :
Here lieth the body of Robert Surtees, of Milkwell-burn, who died June 24, 1700, aged 63. Also Anthony his son, died Sept. 8, 1724, aged 59. Also Anthony Surtees, grandson to the above Anthony Surtees, died Nov. 13, 1754, aged 23. Also Margaret, widow of the aforesaid Anthony Surtees, who died Jan. 4, 1756, aged 91. Also Robert, son of the aforesaid Anthony and Margaret, who died April 12, 1759, aged 62, Also Catharine, wife of the above named Robert Surtees, died May 17, 1777, aged 73 (fn. 21).
On a slab near the former:
Here lyeth interred the body of George Surtees, of Colt Park, who departed this life Dec. 28, 1682. Also of Elizabeth his wife, who departed this life April 4, 1703. Also Elizabeth their daughter, departed this life September 4, 1722. Also George their son, Sept. 4, 1724. Also Mary, daughter of Robert, son of the aforesaid George and Elizabeth, who departed this life Feb. 1, 1751, aged 2. Also Mary, daughter of George, grandson of the said (George), who departed June 16, 1757, aged 9. Also Mary, wife of Robert, son of the said (George), who departed this life Dec. 18, 1727, aged 59.
On an altar-tomb near the former:
In memory of Mary, wife of Robert Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 18th of Dec. 1757, aged 59 years. Robert Surtees, who died 22d of Nov. 1760, aged 82 years. Sarah, wife of George Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 4th of April 1763, aged 42 years. George Surtees, died 5th of August 1764, aged 43 years. Edward Surtees, of Colt Park, died 3d of April 1805, aged 75 years. Margaret, wife of Robert Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 22d of Jauuary 1807, aged 38 years. Robert Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 16th of May 1808, aged 37 years. Also John Surtees, of Biggin, who died 18th of June 1817, aged 78 years.
Succession Of Curates.
Ebchester Perpetual Curacy, not in charge.—The Master and Brethren of Sherburn Hospital, Patrons.—Dedication to St. Ebba.—Certified value 16l. 7s. 5d.—Episc. Proc. 2s. 4d.
- John Same, 1501.
- Clement Bell, occurs 26 Sept. 1554.
- Giles Widdowes, 1576 (fn. 22).
- George Wrightson, pr. 8 Aug. 1586, p. res. Widdowes.
- Mathias Wrightson, cl. 19 Aug. 1626, p. res. Wrightson.
- Reginald Steadman, cl. 1680 (fn. 23).
- Christopher Collison, cl. p. m. Steadman, 1703.
- Jonathan Jefferson, cl. 1736 p. m. Collison.
- William Ellison (fn. 24), A. M. 1784, p. m. Jefferson.
There are no charitable donations to the Parish of Ebchester.
Under the Lanchester Enclosure Act in 1773 the Perpetual Curate of Ebchester received an allotment of land in lieu of his tithes within the Chapelry of Ebchester (fn. 25).