The Saxon Church

Escomb, Co. Durham

Location; Take the B6282 west out of Bishop Auckland. 2 miles later take a minor road to the right signposted Escomb

Description; Built about AD 680, Escomb church is arguably the most complete saxon building in the country. It has no known dedication. It's many original features have resulted in it becoming an archetypical building; the term “Escomb Fashion” being used as a description for Anglo-Saxon features nationwide. Foremost of these is the Escomb fashion door-jamb, which consists of alternating horizontal and vertical slab-stones, as can be seen here used as the support for the chancel arch. A further feature of an actual door jamb is that the stonework for the frame and the jamb itself is continuous through the thickness of the wall.

Another is the Megalithic-quoining at the corners, consisting of side-alternating slab-like stones of much larger dimensions than the surrounding stonework. Both the quoining and above mentioned door jamb construction is also more generally known as Anglo Saxon Long and Short Work

Another feature is the Pyramidal construction. The size of stone blocks reduces towards the top and the walls lean inwards slightly, although this picture exaggerates the lean due to photographic effects.

This general view of the interior shows that the chancel arch support also leans inwards. The arch itself is reconstructed from a roman arch, taken from the nearby fort of Binchester. It has a 12th Century fresco painted on it's underside.

Further evidence of reused roman material is on this window-jamb, it has the sideways-on inscription;


Which means “ To the man born for the good of the state”. Remarkably, this was not noticed until by a schoolboy in the 1960s.

Evidence of the reuse of roman material can be seen all over the building. The stone protected by a sill here has the much weathered inscription;


or 6th Legion. Further down is one of many stones with Diamond Broaching which was common in roman architecture and may have been either for decoration or a key for plaster.

This sundial is an original feature. It depicts the head of an unknown creature at the top with a serpent underneath. The three grooves which can be seen in the disc are markers for monastic prayer times.

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Sources; The Saxon Church, Escomb: M.A, & J.D. Whitehead

All Photographs by the author.