Finchale (County Durham)
Finchale lies on the northern edge of Durham City, about 4 miles from the city centre, close to the banks of the River Wear. Despite its spelling, it is usually pronounced 'finkle'. Although it is best known for the beautiful remains of Finchale Priory, its earliest remains date far earlier. A whole series of small flint tools of Mesolithic date have been found at Finchale Banks and Finchale Nab. These are probably the remains of an early hunting camp. It is unlikely that the population of this period has permanent villages. Instead it is thought that they moved across the landscape, hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. It is likely that this camp, close to the river, was where they fished for salmon and other wild fish.
Despite these early remains little else is known about Finchale until the medieval period. In 1110 St Godric settled in Finchale. He moved the present site of the Priory in 1118, where he lived as a hermit. When he died the small chapel dedicated to St John he had built was taken over the monks of the nearby abbey at Durham, and in 1196 a permanent priory was established here. Although not far from their home abbey, the monks of Durham used the priory as a kind of temporary summer home. Many remains of the abbey buildings can be seen, although the abbey was dissolved in 16th century. Although some of the buildings, such as the church are in ruins, it is thought that some of nearby standing buildings, such as the farmhouse were also part of the Priory complex. As well as standing remains, traces of earthworks associated with the abbey, such as the fishponds can still be seen.
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