Keys to the Past

Local History

Ebchester (County Durham)

Ebchester is a small parish, separated from Northumberland by the river Derwent. It lies about 12 miles to the south-west of Newcastle. Although a Neolithic handaxe has been found in the are, the village is best known for the Roman fort on which it now stands.
The fort was known by the Roman name of Vindomora. Unfortunatley, there is now little to be seen as most of the site has been built over. The church of St Ebba stands in the southern corner of the site. There has been relatively little research on this fort, though it is known that a simple mosaic was found here in the 1950s. Also several Roman altars and other carved stones are known from the site of the church.
Although the fort went out of use by the end of the 4th century, it is probable that the site was reused again in the 7th century. It is thought that the church of St Ebba was originally a monastery founded about this time by Ebba, the daughter of the Aethelfrith, the first king of Northumbria. Sadly there are no remains of this date, and the present church was mainly built in the early 11th century, using stone re-used from the Roman fort.
During the medieval period the area remained rural. The isolated, yet attactive, landscape encouraged many hermits to come here and the area was once known as the 'place of the anchorites'.
The River Derwent itself played an important part in the history of the village. Several water-powered mills are recorded in the 18th and 19th century. A corn mill stood at Mill Lane, and a fulling mill and a Stick mill are also known. Several bridges are also known. As well as the surviving bridges, a wooden bridge once stood, as did another footbridge, though both have now disappeared.
The rural nature of the village continued throughout the post-medieval period and through to the present day. The remains of several post-medieval buildings still survive today, such as Demesne Farm and {West Law D2349} and the large St Mary's Convent formerly called {Ebchester Hall D5922}.
Ebchester is also the location of a curious ghost story. The tale tells that in the early 18th century a local gentleman Robert Johnson had a row with his son and swore an oath, saying 'I hope my right arm will burn off before I give my son a sixpence'. He soon made up with his son, and many years later when he was on his deathbed, he left all his land and property to him. This would all have been quite unremarkable, except for events which occurred before the funeral. The house was full of guests paying their last respects, and the body lay in a coffin in the front room. Suddenly they smelt burning, and on investigation they found that it came from the coffin. They opened the lid and found, that as he had sworn, Robert Johnson's arm was burning off!!!

Reference number:D6784

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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.