Orm’s Church

Tucked away in the secluded valley of the Hodge Beck is the ancient church of St Gregory. It is thought that there may have been a church on this site as early as the eighth century. A number of early crosses have can be seen built into the walls with further loose remnants held within the church including a quern

Above the south doorway is a sundial that reads, Orm Gamal’s son bought St. Gregory’s Minster when it was all broken down and fallen and he let it be made anew from the ground to Christ and St. Gregory, in Edward’s days, the king, and in Tosti’s days, the Earl. This is day’s Sun marker at every tide. And Haworth me wrought and Brand, priests. The sundial dates to just before the Norman Conquest, we know this because Tosti refers to Earl Tostig, Tostig Godwinson, the Earl of Northumbria from 1055-1065.

The church was restored in 1907 by Temple Moore, of the greatest Victorian church architects. A few elements from the early church can still be seen including the beautiful, tall, narrow Saxon south door, which was once an entrance but now leads into the tower, and a wonderful waterleaf capital.

Just across the valley from the church is the site of the famous Kirkdale Hyena Cave, a place of some significance in the history of the study of geology and evolutionary science. More of that another time.

Map – National Library of Scotland



Commenting on William and the Norman invasion, J.S. Calvert wrote

York fell into the hands of the English rebels. William hastened from the Forest of Dean, where he was hunting and vowed “by the splendour of God” that he would lay waste from the Humber to the Tweed. This threat he carried out ruthlessly. He burnt the villages, battered down farm houses and castles, massacred the inhabitants and destroyed the crops. Such a scene as he left had never been imagined. When on his return to York, he thought his work was done, he heard that there was a camp of refuge near the mouth of the Tees, and in January of 1070, made his way thither to where Coatham and Warrenby now stand. There he found the Camp of Refuge. A few days sufficed to end the hopes of the Saxons. He returned by the same road that he had come, and in Bilsdale had the adventure of his life. His force was encountered by a terrible snowstorm, lost its way on the moors, wandered about without sense of direction a whole night and with difficulty escaped. Freeman remarks that had there been a troop of English to attack the King’s force, the whole course of English History might have been changed.

Cleveland in English History. J.S. Calvert.

In the 1930’s an old farmer in the Roppa area, used the phrase ‘He wur swearing like Billy Norman coming out of the fog on the moor.

The North York Moors, An Introduction. Stanhope White


Saint Sulpicus

I’ve been unable to cross reference this folklore tale and can find no other references to the lost village of Saint Sulpicus.

Beyond the steel works, on the southern bank of the Tees, close to Paddy’s Island, and buried beneath millions of tons of steel slag, lie the remains of a fort; the last refuge of the Anglo-Saxons who refused to accept William the Conqueror as their king. In 1072 the villagers of Saint Sulpicus, just down the coast betrayed them to the king who led an army from York to attack them. The refugees managed to escape, but the fort was abandoned.

King William rewarded the villagers of Saint Sulpicus by giving them his war helmet, stuff with gold coins. However, before these treacherous wretches could share out their ill-gotten gains, their village was destroyed by divine wrath, a huge storm washing the village and villagers, into the sea. On one night of the year, the souls of these villagers are said to appear on the beach bewailing their fate and desperately searching for their lost gold.

The Haunted Coast

Michael Wray


Coatham, Cannibalism & The Conqueror

1069  After the Norman Conquest of 1066, Northern rebels massacred the occupying garrison at Durham. William the Conqueror himself took revenge by devastating the whole area between York and Durham. So vicious was this “harrying of the north” in terms of the destruction of livestock and crops that the local inhabitants were reduced to cannibalism  in order to survive. At the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086, much of the area was described as “waste”.

1070  A camp of refuge had been established on Coatham Marshes for those rebels who still refused to submit to the Normans. In January of this year, the Conqueror himself came to Coatham from York, only to find that the rebels had melted away before his arrival.

Highlights in the History of Cleveland

Norman Moorsom