The most spectacular feature of St. Laurence’s Church is the remarkable North arcade which was created during Bishop Pudsey’s extension of the original Norman church in about 1180AD. One of his great builders, Christian the Mason was thought to be responsible for both the Galilee Chapel in Durham Cathedral and the North arcade here. Near the pulpit you will find Christian’s grave cover; a massive slab of Frosterley marble.
The oldest part of the present church is the westernmost end of the nave where two small windows and the cornerstones of the original nave are a reminder of the simplicity of the early Norman building. These small windows were blocked by later builders and were only uncovered in the 19thC when the rare 12thC wall paintings were discovered showing scenes from the life of St. Cuthbert.
The most dramatic alterations, and those which largely determine the external appearance of the church you see today, are due to enthusiastic Victorian “restoration” by Ignatius Bonomi in 1846-7.
Other features to look for include the Norman font and the church tower which holds three pre-reformation bells. On the outside of the church’s south wall is an ancient sundial which may have belonged to an earlier church on the site.
The window in the west end of the church depicts St. Laurence who was martyred by being burned on an iron grid. This motif is echoed in the design of the oak table at that end of the church.
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