Keys to the Past

Local History

Escomb (County Durham)

The village of Escomb lies on the south bank of the river Wear about one and a half miles west of Bishop Auckland. Importantly for its history it is also not far from the Roman fort at Binchester.

The history of the village is dominated by its church. This church, which was built in the Anglo-Saxon period, possible as early as the 7th century, is one of the best-preserved churches of this period in the country. Although now surrounded by houses, it once stood surrounded by open ground. Despite its great age it nearly fell into ruin in the 19th century, when a new church was built nearby. It was only when the Reverend Hoopell, one of the amateur archaeologists who had carried out research on Binchester, saw the church that its age was recognised. It was soon repaired and restored and its was reopened in 1880. The other church, St Johns, continued to be used. It was built in a Gothic style, and stands on a hill to the west of the village.
The Anglo-Saxon church was very simple in form- the simple nave, still with its original windows, is rectangular in shape, attached to the east end is a square chancel. Intriguingly, there are a number of carved Roman stones built into the church, and it is thought that many of the other stones from which the church was built came from the Roman fort of Binchester. It has even been suggested that the archway between the nave and chancel may have been taken complete, from the fort. As well as the Anglo-Saxon church, there are also a number of carved stone crosses of this date. Some may have been simple grave markers, and others were probably free standing crosses. Despite these remains, it is unlikely that Escomb church was ever of great importance. In fact, the reason it survived so well, may have been its poverty.
In the medieval period Escomb remained a small, quiet village. Although there are documentary records of a small colliery and a millfew remains of this period are now visible.
By the 19th century the area became increasingly dominated by coal mining, and most of the inhabitants were mainly mines. The Darlington and Consett railway line ran through the parish, and helped move the coal out to nearby coke ovens and iron smelters.

Reference number:D6789

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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.