Saint Sulpicus


Last year I wrote about being unable to cross-reference a folktale from Michael Wray’s book, The Haunted Coast. The tale was of the lost village of Saint Sulpicus located on the south bank of the Tees, which was supposedly destroyed by devine wrath after the villagers betrayed the Anglo Saxon refugees to the Conqueror’s army in 1072.

I have recently been doing a little research on this subject and have found a couple of sources that shed some light on the tale including this passage in Jane Gardam’s book, The Iron Coast.

…by the river mouth at Warrenby, far along the sands and standing on them. It was a poor place called St Supulchre’s, which is a mongrel name, much younger than St Germaine’s and not in Domesday Book. It was probably a mortuary chapel down on the beach for the bodies of washed-up sailors. At the reformation it was found to be so poor it was hardly worth sacking. It faded away into the sand. A nearby sand dune called Church Hill outlived it by a few hundred years until it in turn disappeared. A learned fellow, Dr Fallow of Coatham, wrote a monograph about St Sepulchre’s in 1866, but then found he had made no discovery after all. When he told the village, everyone had some sort of race-memory of the little church. Fishermen digging for bait had, for hundreds of years, been turning up skulls.

Minnie Horton expands upon this subject in her wonderful book, The Story of Cleveland. She mentions Dr Fallow discussing the church with an elderly lady, Mrs Faith.

..who could remember some portions of  the walls still standing on the sandbanks not far from Marsh House, whose outhouses had been repaired with the stones from the ruined building…

…However, there are a few scattered allusions to it in various documents. In these the name was often spelt differently, e.g. Saint Sulpitiu, Saint Seplyns, Saint Sulphon, Sepulchres, and Saint Cyprians. Surely, the little medieval church would be dedicated to Saint Sulpicius, Bishop of Bayeux from 838 tp 843. The Bishop had been slain by the Normans, and this district had been so ravaged by William and his Norman followers that the families of local men who had lost their lands would hand down the tales of horror of that time.

An obituary of Dr Fallow and his article for The Proceeding of the Cleveland Naturalists Field Club can be read here


The Iron Coast. Photographs of Yorkshire by Peter Burton & Harland Walshaw, Text by Jane Gardam. Pub. Sinclair-Stevenson 1994

Story of Cleveland by Minnie Horton. Pub. Cleveland County Libraries 1979

The History of the River Tees in Maps. Pub. The Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society.1990

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