Tyne and Wear
The first mention of a place called Whickham (‘Quykham’) is back in 1183, in a property survey for the bishop of Durham called the Boldon Book. By 1220 Whickham had a vicar and a church, with its own churchyard. In the centuries since, the church of St Mary’s has been the spiritual centre of the village and very much at the centre of community life.
St Mary’s bears traces of many different periods of church architecture. It has a lofty Norman nave, a 12th century chancel and a porch and tower dating back to the 14th century, containing bells which are still rung regularly. The tower also houses a fine baptismal font made of local Frosterley marble.
There are more recent renovations and additions too. After a disastrous fire in 1841, when the church was almost completely destroyed, restoration work included building a second aisle and removing the galleries. The church’s beautiful communion kneelers were made in 1998 by the church needlework group.
The churchyard contains many interesting gravestones and memorials including one from 1626 to children who died of the plague and one to a lady who reached the age of 102 in 1769! There are also memorials to Victorian rowing hero Harry Clasper and to William Shield, a celebrated musician of his day. He composed the tune we all know as Auld Lang Syne, but first heard in his opera ‘Rosina’ in 1783.
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Tyne and Wear