St Helen

Open daily, this Anglo Saxon church is set in a wonderfully peaceful location and full of history with some rare features, a real gem!

About this church

The most striking feature is the Anglo Saxon Tower dated 960AD. However, archaeological investigations revealed remains of an earlier building, possibly dating back to the 7th or 8th century, an earlier church perhaps?

Within the vestry on the ground floor of the tower is the Ragnarok stone on which is carved a fascinating grafitti depicting a scene from Norse Mythology. It is thought to represent the Apocalypse.

On the first floor is the rare feature of a recess lit by a window in the south wall. It is speculated that it could have been an altar or have contained a reliquary and that the room may have been a priest’s or sacristan’s chamber. Access is limited but pictures are available.

The tower arch, outlined by double strip work and pilaster strips is a fine example of Saxon workmanship. From the tower one looks down the Norman nave with the north aisle built in 1190. This aisle has a series of memorial windows depicting John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

The 13th century south aisle saw the Lady Chapel added, recreated in 1960, with the medieval piscina and aumbry situated on the south wall. The chancel was added in 1280. It has five great square headed windows with fragments of medieval glass including the arms of Antony Beck, Bishop of Durham. In Norman times a new doorway was built, and when the south aisle was added in the 12th century it was rebuilt in its present position. The door was restored in the 19th century with some of the ancient ironwork incorporated into it.

Outside on the first stage of the south wall of the tower there is the Bear stone, thought to be part of a piece of ecclesiastical furniture. Also on the first stage of the west wall you find a very worn early 9th century panel depicting ‘The Women at the Sepulchre on Easter Morning’.

The south wall of the churchyard has a heavily weathered collection of medieval grave slabs. A fine granite War Memorial stands just inside the gateway and commemorates those who lost their lives in both world wars.

Key Features

  • Captivating architecture
  • Spectacular stained glass
  • Enchanting atmosphere
  • Wildlife haven
  • National heritage here
  • Famous connections

Visitors information

  • Level access to the main areas
  • On street parking at church
  • Accessible toilets in church
  • Café within 500m
  • Dog friendly
  • Walkers & cyclists welcome
  • Space to secure your bike
  • Church shop or souvenirs

Other nearby churches

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St Helen

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St Helen

This delightful 12th century church is home to a magnificent 5 order Norman arched doorway and an internationally recognised 850 year old 'viking' wooden door.

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