After Sophie and I had finished photographing the butterflies at Raby Castle, we decided to go and have lunch in the nearby village of Staindrop, and visit the church there. Staindrops earliest history begins in Neolithic times, though there is little left to see of that as the current village is built on top of it. Nearby roads and settlements bear evidence of it’s expansion in Roman times.
The History Bit
It is known that the first church in Staindrop was a saxon building made around 771 when Alhred was the King of Northumberland, but not much else is known about it as the recorded history starts in the early 11th century when King Canute (yes the guy who commanded the tide to go back out) had a manor in Staindrop. This and the church he gave to the newly founded priory at Durham . This early church was very small, and Canute had it enlarged by adding a tower and extending the nave.
For the next 100 years the church was yoyo’d between the Bishop and the Monastery of Durham, as both wanted to control the wealth and lands of the area. Then in 1131 the Manor and lands were granted to Dolfin the son of Uchtred (descended from the old Earls of Northumberland and Kings of Alba). Dolfin became Lord Raby which suggested that the manor at Staindrop was being supplanted by one at Raby, which ultimately became Raby Castle.
Dolfins son Maldred took over when Dad died, and he enlarged the church by adding long narrow aisles to each side of the nave, this entailed removing the outer walls. When Maldred died his son Robert married the wealthy Norman heiress Isabelle Neville, and their son Geoffrey took on the Neville name.
The church benefitted nicely from the expanded wealth brought by the Nevilles. From 1250 – 1260 major renovations went on, rebuilding and heightening of the tower, and adding transepts and a high pitched roof and lancet windows. The aisles were extended westward and a double tiered vestry built with an upper room serving as a hermit’s cell. (John de Cameva is recorded as hermit of Staindrop in 1336).
In 1343 Ralph the 2nd Baron Neville (he of the battle of Nevilles Cross – see above links) was granted a license to build three chapels in the church, which entailed the South aisle and transept being taken down and rebuilt with Ashlar stonework. The grant shows that the church was originally dedicated to St.Gregory, but after the reformation, St.Mary became more popular. As well as the chapels, a little vestry was built to serve these and the south porch created. This area provided the burial space for his mother and later Neville Ladies.
The effigy of Euphemia de Clavering can be found here under an elaborate canopy in the South Wall.
In 1849, when restoration work was going on the figure of Isabella Neville was found, and now her effigy lies next to that of Euphemia (cracking name that!).
In 1408, Ralph’s grandson, also Ralph (here we go again, see links if confused 🙂 ) got a licence to establish a college at Staindrop. It was sited on the North side of the Churchyard where the mausoleum now stands.
And due to the kudos that having a college brought, Ralph was able to erect the chancel choir pews (with misericords), whilst retaining the 14th Century screen.
This meant making a lot of alterations to the roof and also raising the height and changing the dimensions of the tower by the addition of a new chamber.
This made the building appear oddly out of balance, with a single transept on the north and the oversized aisle on the South. so sometime in the 15th Century the North wall was taken down and moved Northward.
At the east end of the chancel is a sedilia (a group of stone seats for clergy in the south chancel wall of a church, usually three in number and often canopied and decorated.)
In this next picture you can see a little window high up in the wall on the left, this is the hermits window, where he could look down on the church service and not be observed. So sneaky these hermits.
The reformation came, in the 1500’s and as the Nevilles fortunes waned, the church lost its benefactors. The college was dissolved, the church fell into disrepair and it’s buildings and furnishings were plundered.
But then in 1626 Sir Henry Vane came to the rescue! An important member of the Royal Household, Charles 1st sold Raby Castle to him and granted his petitioned to become lay Rector of Staindrop. Henry and his descendants saved the church,. The altar which was destroyed in the reformation was replaced with a wooden table which you can just about see in the picture above and the ancient fabric of the church was retained by making the necessary repairs.
In the early 1900’s the chancel got a new floor made of local Frosterly marble and new panelling around the sanctuary incorporating the reredos.
The tombs of the church were also moved to their current locations at this time. In the South West corner will be found the large alabaster tomb of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland who died in 1425, and his two wives – Margaret Stafford, daughter of Hugh, Earl of Stafford, and Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt and half sister of Henry IV.
Alongside there is an oak tomb which is that of Henry Neville who died in 1564, and his two wives, Anne, daughter of the Earl of Rutland, and Jane, daughter of Sir Richard Chalmondeley. The children of the marriage are carved in niches around the tomb.
Between them is an older stone Effigy to Margery 2nd wife of Ralph Lord Neville c1343. The tomb slab is mounted on 4 Lions.
In the North West corner the tombs are memorials to the Vane family. The central effigy is that of William Harry Vane, 1st Duke of Cleveland.
It was such a surprise to come across all these effigies and tombs in this ordinary looking church. I also noticed a weird thing sticking high up on a wall in the chancel, above the sedilia
I asked a lady who was there arranging the flowers for Sunday, and she told me it was a crusaders helmet, and they had rested at the church and one left his behind. So they mounted it high up as it’s possibly quite valuable and they don’t want it stolen. The church and it’s contents are not alluded to in Raby Castle, and the flower lady said they were a bit miffed that the castle doesn’t promote them, they have to go cap in hand to English Heritage to get any repairs done, and there’s a fair bit needs doing. It would be nice if the people at the castle let visitors know that this little church held so much of interest, and the visitors could then donate! We did, of course.
All pictures by me and embiggenable with a click.
A few more pictures of the interior and graveyard HERE