I took a trip into the Durham Dales with my friend Graham Vasey. County Durham is a bit of a mystery to me, growing up on the south bank of the Tees I’ve always viewed County Durham as a place of declining post-industrial townships, hastily built in the service of king coal and the ironmasters; Institute walls maintaining memories of pit explosions, collapsing shafts and pals whose bones fertilise foreign fields. Graham is slowly enlightening me and correcting my ignorance.
We arrived at Escomb to visit the beautiful seventh century Saxon church of St John, itself once a ruin, now saved and restored.
Boundary walls topped with raw slag and scoria brick paving speak of the district’s recent past
Keys at No.28
An austere beauty, each stone block tells a tale, many of them were carved by Roman hands
Layers of time – the nearby Roman fort at Binchester became a convenient quarry for the Saxon masons; an intact Roman arch, its underside reveals traces of Medieval fresco
The altar cross recycled, below it a beautiful Frosterley Marble Grave slab
Two sundials, one the oldest in England
The key to the interpretation of the sculpture lies in Saxon mythology, to a period before the emergence of the cult of Valhalla and the Viking Gods. For just as the beast’s head has little resemblance to a stag, so too it bears little resemblance to a wolf. We are looking at a chaos monster… Nicholas Beddow 1991
The Devil’s door and Roman Lewis hole