St Mary’s Church

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Staindrop was very important in Saxon times as it was the the capital of King Cnut. There had been a Saxon church here since the C8th. This was enlarged by King Cnut and given to the monks of Durham Cathedral. It was later enlarged and embellished by the Nevilles of “Raby Castle”: .

Part of the chancel is Saxon and the remains of the Saxon windows can be seen above the arches in the nave. Built into the left hand wall of the chancel arch is the remains of Saxon sundial, moved here from outside.

The nave was enlarged in the early C12th and transepts added in the late C12th. In the C13th the south aisle was widened and a Lady Chapel added by Ralph Neville where his mother and other Neville ladies could be buried. A clerestory was added. The north aisle was finally widened in the C16th.

From the outside it is a sturdy and rather plain church with a battlemented tower at the west end and large Decorated style windows.

Entry is through the south door.

Inside round Norman pillars and round arches separate nave and side aisle. The rood screen is C14th and one of the finest in County Durham. The dark wood choir stalls are C15th and have carved backs and fronts. In contrast, the altar and carved reredos are a golden coloured wood. The stained glass east window is C19th.

The roof above the sanctuary is painted with deep blue panels and gold stars. Bosses are gilded.

The Lady Chapel at the end of the south aisle contains two wall tombs. Nearest the east end and set under a crocketed arch, is the effigy of Euphemia de Clavering. To the right of her is Isabella Neville , with the effigy of a small unknown child next to here.

At the end of the north aisle is a small altar.

The Neville tombs are at the back of the south aisle by the door, surrounded by wrought iron railings. The large alabaster tomb is that of Ralph Neville who died in 1425 with his two wives, Margaret of Stafford and Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt. The tomb was probably donated by John of Gaunt using stone from his quarry at Tutbury in Staffordsire. The arches round the base may have contained small weepers.

The oak tomb in the corner 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 Cholmondeley. Round the base are kneeling figures. Over the years the wood has darkened until it is black in colour and resembles marble.

On the floor between them is the effigy of Margery, second wife of Ralph Lord Neville who died in 1343.

At the end of the north aisle are the Vane tombs. The splendid large tomb is that of William Harry Vane, 1st Duke of Cleveland who died in 1842. On the walls are Vane memorials and hatchments.

History has by passed Staindrop and its church. Only the splendid Neville tombs give a hint of its past importance. This is a nice church and is well worth visiting. It is open daily and there is parking near by.

There are more pictures “here.”:

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