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SEDGEFIELD CHURCH, FROM THE N.E. ( Reduced from plate in Billings's 'Architectural Antiquities of the County of Durhar.
BY CHARLES CLEMENT HODGES.
[Read at Sedgefield on the 27th August, 1892.] SEDGEFIELD has always been a place of very considerable importance, and was one of the chief centres in the south part of the bishopric. Its name is, there can be little doubt, of topographical origin, and means the field or open place amidst swampy ground occupied by reeds or sedges. The site is a wide swell of sandy gravel, on the highest point of which the church and village stand. Anciently the surroundings were a wide marsh, as is clearly shown by the condition of the low lying lands and the names of adjoining places, such as Redmarshall, formerly Redmereshill, or the hill in the middle of the red mere. Also the names of some old farms such as Green Knolls, Island Farm, the Lizards, etc.
Of the history of the place little is known. It seems to be the town mentioned by Symeon as having been purchased for the church by bishop Cutheard, who came to the see in 900 during the time of its location at Chester-le-Street,) and ruled it till 915.
In bishop Pudsey's great survey of the bishopric known as Boldon Buke, and made in 1183, we find Sedgefield recorded as a thriving and for those days a populous place. There were twenty tenants in villenage, twenty firmarii or renters, a smith, a pounder, a carpenter, and five cottagers.
The manor mill and that of Fishburn are also mentioned. Bishop Hatfield's survey (1345-1381) shows that an increase had taken place in the number of the various kinds of tenants and holders, as well as in the money value of their services. Under
This paper was read at Sedgefield on the occasion of a Saturday afternoon meeting there on August 27th, 1892 (see Proc. v. p. 199). As the meeting was but thinly attended it has been thought desirable to print it with illustrations, as no complete description of this fine church is available.
? On the other hand the derivation may be a nominal one, and ·Ceddes field' looks like the field or place of one Cedd, a not uncommon Anglo-Saxon name. The great St. Chad had a brother of this name, the founder of the monastery of Lastingham, who is often confounded with Chad.—Bede, Eccl. Hist. book I. preface, and book III. cap. xxiii.
3 • Eodem tempore Cuthardus, episcopus fidelis, emit de pecunia Sancti Cuthberti villam quae vocatur Ceddesfeld, et quicquid ad eam pertinet, praeter quod tenebant tres homines, Aculf, Ethelbyriht, Frithlaf.'-Historia de S. Cuthberto, etc. 51 Surtees Society Publ. p. 146.
bishop Kellaw (1311-1316) Sedgefield was chartered for fairs and markets, and so came to rank as a market town.
The village is situated at a turning point in the main road between Durham and Stockton. The principal streets are at right angles to one another, one being on the Durham road, and the other on that which originally led to Hartlepool through Embleton, which is in Sedgefield parish, and possesses an ancient chapel. The other main road out of the village connects it with the great north road at Rushyford, passing the hamlet of Bradbury on the way. In the centre of the town is a large open space where the markets were once held, no doubt around a market cross of which there is not now even a tradition. To the east of this area stands the church and churchyard.
The church is dedicated to St. Edmund the bishop, a very rare dedication in the north.4
It is certain that a place of such importance as Sedgefield possessed a church from very early times. The absence of any good stone in the neighbourhood and the remoteness of the site from any koman station, although near the line of a Roman road renders it very improbable that this early building would be anything but a timber construction. Whether such a church was ever superseded by a stone building before the time of the Norman conquest, or whether it survived until after that eventful period, and was then succeeded by a church in the Norman style, are questions which it is impossible to answer either in the affirmative or in the negative. Whatever was the nature of the predecessor or predecessors of the present church it is a remarkable fact that it, or they, have wholly disappeared, not a single fragment of masonry, either architectual or monumental, ever having been seen on the site, so far as can be ascertained, within recent times. That no part of an early church should have come down to our day is not altogether a matter of surprise, when we reflect that in a populous and thriving village the church was not likely to pass the great rebuilding periods of the early and later Gothic styles without being transformed,
* Bacon (Liber Regis) gives St. Edmund the bishop; but, about 1300, the church seems to have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as by the will of John
he rected body to be buried in Cimiterio Beatæ Mariæ de Seggefeld,'--2 Surtees Soc. Publ. (1835, 2) p. 20.
• See Durham before the Conquest, by W. H. D. Longstaffe. Archaeological Institute Proceedings, Newcastle, vol. i.