Keys to the Past

Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House (Bearpark)

Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2008
Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2008

Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2008
Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2008

Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006
Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006

Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006
Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006

Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © DCC 2006
Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © DCC 2006

Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006
Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006

Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006
Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006

Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006
Beaurepaire, Bearpark, Prior Manor House © Ryder, P 2006
The remains of the Prior's House and chapel of Beaurepaire or Bear Park, built by Prior Bertram (1244-58), later destroyed by the Scots and rebuilt, C.1346, by Prior Fosser. Whilst the Prior and Bishop of Durham had to lived at close quarters within the city, the Bishop had his favourite country seat at Bishop Auckland and the Prior his rather nearer home here at Beaurepaire; both houses were the centres of large hunting parks, that at Beaurepaire of 1300 acres.

Beau Repaire is French for beautiful retreat and the manor house here was used as a retreat for the priors and monk of Durham Cathedral. It could house up to 40 monks at any one time. It was built in the mid 13th century (1244-58). Beaurepaire seems to have begun as a retirement home built buy Prior Bertram de Middleton (1244-1258), and was considerable extended over the next fifty years or so.

It suffered badly during Scottish attacks culminating in the nearby Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 'Only the shattered and roofless shell of the chapel is now standing, with dilapidated remains of some adjacent buildings'. The building was restored and extended again by Prior Fossour (1341-1374) to develop into a rest home for the monks of Durham, as did Finchale Priory to the north of the city, although the Prior continued to use it (along with his manor house at Pittington) as a favoured country residence until the Dissolution; Prior Hugh de Whitehead, the last Prior, is known to have carried out considerable alterations. The buildings continued in use as an occasional residence of the early deans of Durham, until during the Civil War the Scots inflicted further damage in the 1640s, after which most of them lay in ruin. Fortunately the site attracted antiquarian attention and a series of informative drawings (notably those of Grimm) provides much information on buildings lost to decay and clearance in the 19th century. Old prints chronicle the gradual loss of the ruins. An 1827 print by Davison shows only the south gable of the hall and south wall of the chapel standing, and an 1846 drawing by Billings only the hall gable, shown again in sketches by Blair dated 1891;this finally fell in a storm during the autumn of 1893. The few fragments that survived attracted little attention, until major excavations in the 1980s and consolidation work exposed many lower walls. Inevitably the freely-accessible site is now beginning to suffer from the attentions of vandals {Ref 13}.

All that survives now are some ruined walls and a number of grass-covered mounds. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument protected by law.

Reference number:D1308
Historical period:Medieval (1066 to 1540)
Legal status:Scheduled Ancient Monument

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See also:
Source of Reference
Local History of Bearpark


Disclaimer - Please note that this information has been compiled from a number of different sources. Durham County Council and Northumberland County Council can accept no responsibility for any inaccuracy contained therein. If you wish to use/copy any of the images, please ensure that you read the Copyright information provided.