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Kirk Merrington Church of St John

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Merrington Church Tower

In the civil parish of Spennymoor.
In the historic county of Durham.
Modern Authority of Durham.
1974 county of County Durham.
Medieval County of County Palatinate of Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ26233146
Latitude 54.67753° Longitude -1.59472°

Kirk Merrington Church of St John has been described as a probable Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

There are no visible remains.

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Church of St John the Evangelist. Parish church; 1850-1851 rebuilding by George Pickering of Norman church, incorporating part of original north wall. Sandstone rubble, most roughly coursed and squared, with ashlar plinth (except for chancel) and quoins and dressings. Historical note: remarkable for having withstood siege, in 1143-6, when the intruding bishop William Cumyn is said to have dug a ditch around the church. (Listed Building Report)

The aptitude of Merrington church tower for a post of observation seems to have incited William Cumyn, the Scottish intruder in the bishopric in 1143-4, to seize upon it for that purpose. "On the eve of the assumption of the Virgin," says Simeon, "William gathered together his men at the chapel of St. John (of Merrington), distant about five leagues from Durham, and began to turn the same church into a castle. Three barons of the bishopric, to wit, Roger de Coismers (Conyers), Gaufred Escolland, and Bertram de Bulmer, understanding of this sacrilege, and preferring death to the profanation of God's altar, collecting what force they hastily might, pricked to the spot to stay this lewd enterprize. William's men did not sustain the onset. Some fled headlong; the other part barred themselves into the church, round which they had nearly completed the fosse; and, manning the tower and the outworks which they had finished, vainly strove to drive off the assailants with darts and arrows; but the besiegers, reckless of wounds or death, forced their way through the windows, and hurling firebrands on the offenders, were speedily masters of the place." Cumyn's nephew, it is added, as a judgment, became insane the first day of the enterprize; and a wicked stone-mason, who worked harder than the rest, went mad the day the place was retaken, and died raving before he reached Durham. The destruction of the Norman chancel may be attributed to this engagement, as well as that of the pitched roof of the nave, the form of which is still distinctly visible against the west wall of the tower. There are now no traces of the fosse said to have been dug around the church by Cumyn's men. (Fordyce)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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