The Church of St.Mary The Virgin, is on the list of the top 20 oldest churches in Britain. It’s also the only surviving building of the original Saxon Village of Seaham Harbour. (now just Seaham). It was founded by King Æthelstan in 930AD and has 7th C late Anglo Saxon masonry and early Norman masonry in its nave, and a 13th-century chancel and west tower. Over the 16th-century porch door is a late 18th-century sundial with an unusual verse, now illegible, which begins: “The natural clockwork by the mighty one wound up at first and ever since has gone…” which doesn’t make much sense as it stands, but that’s all that can be read.
King Æthelstan was our first proper king according to modern historians at least, grandson of Alfred the Great and son of Edward the Elder. At first King of Mercia, he then went on to be King of Wessex too when his brother who was King there died. In 927 he conquered the Vikings who were ensconced in York and became the first Anglo-Saxon ruler of the whole of England. He also had a pop at Scotland forcing Constantine II to submit to him. Of course neither the Scots or the Vikings were likely to take all this lying down so they all invaded back in 935.
Æthelstan defeated them at the Battle of Brunanburh, a victory which gave him great prestige both in the British Isles and on the Continent. After his death in 939 the Vikings seized back control of York, and it was not finally reconquered until 954. As well as being a good politician, centralising government, bringing important leading figures to council and arranging his siblings marriages to foreign rulers, he was also very pious, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. More legal texts survive from his reign than from any other 10th-century English king and they show his concern about widespread robberies, and the threat they posed to social order. His legal reforms were built on those of his grandfather, and his household was the centre of English learning during his reign, laying the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century.
The church was closed when we got there, so we wandered around the gravestones as you do, and took some pictures of course. The church is now a way North from Seaham as it is today, and overlooks the headland.
It has some old and interesting graves, if you click through the picture you can read most of them,
I can’t find out what he died of or how, his elder brother was in the army, and survived to become the 7th Marquess, but there’s no mention of military service for Reg. Very mysterious considering his pedigree.
Death in mining explosions was all too common back in the 1800’s. The Seaham Colliery suffered an underground explosion in 1880 which saw the deaths of upwards of 160 people including surface workers and rescuers.
The enthusiasm for the Volunteer movement following an invasion scare in 1859 saw the creation of many Rifle, Artillery and Engineer Volunteer units composed of part-time soldiers eager to supplement the Regular British Army in time of need. One such unit was the Seaham Artillery Volunteers formed at Seaham in County Durham on 14 March 1860, which became the 2nd (Seaham) Durham Artillery Volunteer Corps’ (AVC).
In 1870 there was a head-on collision at Brockley Whins between a coal train and an express passenger train, caused by a pointsman’s error and a lack of interlocking. Mr. Reed died of his injuries sustained there, 2 months later.
Next to the church is what used to be the Vicarage, c1830, restored c1990 and was built by Lady Londonderry for the Rev O J Creswell. No info on him either
I think it must have been converted into (expensive) appartments now judging by the (expensive) cars parked on it’s drive,
So that’s the end of our Seaham trip, numpty me forgot to get a shot of the church itself 🙄 so Sophie has lent me hers at the top of the post.
All pictures are embiggenable, and more photo’s of our day out can be found HERE