Chapelry of Ebchester


Institute of Historical Research



Robert Surtees

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'Chapelry of Ebchester', The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham: volume 2: Chester ward (1820), pp. 298-302. URL: Date accessed: 27 November 2014.


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The Darwent separates the Chapelry of Ebchester from Northumberland on the North-West; on every other point this small district is surrounded by the Chapelry of Medomsley.

From Medomsley the ground falls gradually towards the North. Ebchester stands at the foot of a long descent, yet on the edge of a still steeper declivity. Its cottages and trees are scattered along a lofty brow overhanging the green haugh-lands of the Darwent. On the very edge of the steep the vallum of a Roman station is still extremely distinct, and the little Chapel of Ebchester, a farmhold, and a few thatched cottages stand within the very area of the ancient Vindomora—if Vindomora it be, for the point is by no means stated as beyond controversy. Premising that I pay considerable deference to the authority of Richard, the Monk of Cirencester, his fourth Iter has (fn. 1) , ad Tisam (Piersbridge); Vinovio XII.; Epiaco XVIII. . . .; Ad Murum (probably Halton Chesters, on the very wall); and his fifth Iter—Bremenium (Riechester); Corstoplio xx (Corbridge); Vindomora viiii. . . .; Cattaractoni XXII (Catterick); Eboraco, &c. Now as no one doubts that Vinovium is Binchester or Corstopilum Corbridge, we have betwixt Binchester and the Wall two stations, which must, I think, infallibly be identified with Lanchester and Ebchester; and if similarity of sound do not fix Epiacum at the latter, the distance will much better agree with calling Ebchester Vindomora—from Corstopitum to Vindomora nine miles: it is actually (from Corbridge to Ebchester) about nine statute miles; and nineteen miles, the distance stated from Vinovium, will answer nearly as well. The vestiges of the station at Ebchester (never probably so important as that of Lanchester (fn. 2) ) are rendered much less distinct from the circumstance of its very site being occupied by buildings. The vallum and agger are most perfect on the North, where they stretch along the very edge of the hill towards the river for a hundred and sixty paces. The North-West angle is perfect, and part of the Western agger, though cut through by roads and foot-paths. On the South, also, the vallum is extremely distinguishable, just within the Southern wall of the Church-yard, part of which at least seems built out of the ruins of the Roman ramparts, and the moss-grown crumbling walls of some neighbouring cottages on the West betray a similar origin. The great road which leads to this station from the South, and which Warburton (fn. 3) saw broad and distinct before the enclosures, may be still partially traced, and “at the distance of a Roman mile and a half to the South (according to Hunter) the foundation of a square watch-tower was discovered about six or eight yards West of the military way; the stones were cemented with lime:” and in 1727 Dr. Hunter discovered “a little to the South of the South-West angle of the ramparts, part of the aqueduct that supplied the baths; it was composed of two erected flat stones cemented into two niches cut in one laid flat at the bottom.”

Many scattered remains of sepulchral and other monuments may be still observed built up in several of the houses of Ebchester. In the Philos. Trans. N° 278, Dr. Hunter notices an altar, but without legible inscription, and a stone lying near the church-door, sculptured with a very obscure figure, presumed to be habited in the Roman toga, and on each side a dolphin, with some other indistinct ornaments. Camden places amongst the Lanchester Inscriptions, a sepulchral stone inscribed Have (ave (fn. 4) ). He also mentions, as discovered here, a small altar inscribed to the local deity Vitires, . . . Vit . . . . Mximvs Vot Solvit On one face of the altar is a boar, and on the other a toad (fn. 5) . Camden also mentions an urn nearly a yard in height, yet not above seven inches wide, with a small cup or chalice in its centre; probably intended to contain a funeral oblation of wine and milk. Several stones of the centurial kind have been discovered, one of which Horsley says, bore the name of the fifth cohort of a legion. Another centurial stone is engraved in Horsley, extremely, he observes, “like what masons call trough-stones; a circumstance which has doubtless occasioned the destruction of many a reverend fragment, thrust into a wall or the gabel of a house.” He mentions four other centurial stones built up in dwelling-houses, and conjectures, from their number, that this fort on the Darwent was built by the legionary cohorts (fn. 6) , who inserted these inscriptions on the face of the ramparts. Other fragments mentioned by Horsley, are a stone on the outside of a garden wall, vv NB. Ocem. VIT. which he labours to make a dedication, Numinibus Oceani ob vitam servatam.—Væ IVL. GN. NVS ACT. COH. IIII. BR. Antonniæ. LLM. (Minervæ Julius Gnenius Actarius Cohortis quartæ Brittonum Antoniniæ votum solvit libentissime merito.) This (which is now in the Cathedral Library at Durham) is placed by Horsley amongst the Northumberland inscriptions, but it is plain from Hunter, that Dr. Montagu, Dean of Durham, removed it from the corner of a barn at Ebchester. Since the days of Horsley and Gale a few additional memorials of the station have been discovered. Three inscriptions were fixed on the wall of the Parsonage by the Rev, Mr. Jefferson : 1. an altar of the usual form, very evidently dedicated to Mars (Deo Mart . . . Ant Avg Imp.) by a soldier under one of the Antonines; a stone inscribed S. Var? and another Coh. V. In the Avail of another house is also a ceriturial stone (if it be not one of those mentioned by Horsley), Coh. V. VI . . . . (not impossibly Cohors V. of the sixth legion, Victrix, which lay at York. In 1784 the wash of the Darwent during a flood discovered a perfect and curious altar, which fortunately fell into the hands of the accomplished owner of Hamsterley, Henry Swinburne, Esq. whose description of this relique may be seen in the Gent. Mag. 1784 (fn. 7) . I will not attempt to decypher the inscription, which perplexed Mr. Swinburne, but it is probably a dedication to some local deity (Deo. Verno. Tono Cocid Vir . . III . . . .); perhaps by one Cocidius, whose actual titles and military rank probably close the inscription.

The history of Ebchester subsequent to its Roman æra may be very briefly told. St. Ebba (fn. 8) , a royal Northumbrian virgin, is said to have founded a Monastery on the Darwent side, about 660 (fn. 9) . The convent of Ebba, if ever it existed, was destroyed by the Danes. Five centuries later Ebchester lay in waste and forest; only a solitary hermit had perhaps found a cell amongst the mouldering ruins of the Roman Vindomora. Hugh Pudsey granted to his infant foundation of Sherburn, “Ebchester, the place of anchorets on the Darwent (which river divides our forest from that of our neighbours), for the pasture of animals for the use of the sick brethren, and for the maintenance of their shepherds in the same place:” he added. “licence to till one carucate of eightscore acres of the Bishop's land newly disforested;” (fn. 10) and to the house of Sherburn (fn. 11) the advowson of the Church of Ebchester and a considerable portion of land (held by lease under the Master and brethren) still belong.

The ancient Latons and Tilliols, whose descent has been stated, vol. I. p. 215, held some lands in Ebchester under the Hospital, which descended to their representatives the Musgraves (fn. 12) .

By Ind. 13 July, 10 Jac. 1612, Edward Musgrave, of Abbeyholme, alienated his half messuage called the Broome Hill, to Robert Smith, whose daughter Jane married John Joblin (fn. 13) Edward Musgrave alienated the other moiety of the Broome Hill (worth 2l. 66s. 8d. per annum) to William Smith, who conveyed to John Fewster (fn. 14) .

The Hill, a handsome tenement on the ascent of the bank to the South of Ebchester, has been for several descents the property of the Johnsons (fn. 15) , and now belongs to the children of the late Fewster Johnson, Esq.

The great Northern Watling Street was doubtless tracked by both Dane and Saxon long after Epiacum and Vindomora were in ruins. Hutchinson, with great probability (though I know not on what precise authority), brings King David over Ebchester Bridge (fn. 16) in 1346 (fn. 17) . King Edward seems to have nearly followed the same track in pursuit of the elusive Scots (fn. 18) —“Queis opimus, fallere et effugere erat triumphus.” Much more certainly the Bluecaps, under Lesly, took the same route.

In 1644, Feb. 28, the Scots “army marched to the water of Darwent, and with difficulty got their foot by files over a tree-bridge at Ebchester, half over-night, and the rest next day; so that they all passed that night on the field.” (fn. 19)

The Church,

Which retains its ancient dedication to St. Ebbe, stands within the South-Western angle of the Roman station. The structure consists of a low nave and chancel, and a South porch : the chancel opens under a round arch. The old lights are narrow lancets, mixed with modern sash-windows (fn. 20) .

Monumental Inscriptions.

On a handsome mural monument of marble, against the South wall of the nave:

In the burial-ground of this church-yard
are interred the bodies of
Robert Surtees, of Milkwell Burn,
in the county of Durham, Esq.
and Ann Surtees his wife.
The former died on the 5th day of July 1811,
aged 69;
the latter on the 6th of June in the same year,
aged 70.
They were both much respected
in this neighbourhood.

The church-yard contains memorials of a numerous race of Surtees's of two different stocks, the Milkwell-burn and Cronywell.

On an altar-tomb opposite the South porch :

Here lieth the body of Robert Surtees, of Milkwell-burn, who died June 24, 1700, aged 63. Also Anthony his son, died Sept. 8, 1724, aged 59. Also Anthony Surtees, grandson to the above Anthony Surtees, died Nov. 13, 1754, aged 23. Also Margaret, widow of the aforesaid Anthony Surtees, who died Jan. 4, 1756, aged 91. Also Robert, son of the aforesaid Anthony and Margaret, who died April 12, 1759, aged 62, Also Catharine, wife of the above named Robert Surtees, died May 17, 1777, aged 73 (fn. 21) .

On a slab near the former:

Here lyeth interred the body of George Surtees, of Colt Park, who departed this life Dec. 28, 1682. Also of Elizabeth his wife, who departed this life April 4, 1703. Also Elizabeth their daughter, departed this life September 4, 1722. Also George their son, Sept. 4, 1724. Also Mary, daughter of Robert, son of the aforesaid George and Elizabeth, who departed this life Feb. 1, 1751, aged 2. Also Mary, daughter of George, grandson of the said (George), who departed June 16, 1757, aged 9. Also Mary, wife of Robert, son of the said (George), who departed this life Dec. 18, 1727, aged 59.

On an altar-tomb near the former:

In memory of Mary, wife of Robert Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 18th of Dec. 1757, aged 59 years. Robert Surtees, who died 22d of Nov. 1760, aged 82 years. Sarah, wife of George Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 4th of April 1763, aged 42 years. George Surtees, died 5th of August 1764, aged 43 years. Edward Surtees, of Colt Park, died 3d of April 1805, aged 75 years. Margaret, wife of Robert Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 22d of Jauuary 1807, aged 38 years. Robert Surtees, of Colt Park, who died 16th of May 1808, aged 37 years. Also John Surtees, of Biggin, who died 18th of June 1817, aged 78 years.

Succession Of Curates.

Ebchester Perpetual Curacy, not in charge.—The Master and Brethren of Sherburn Hospital, Patrons.—Dedication to St. Ebba.—Certified value 16l. 7s. 5d.—Episc. Proc. 2s. 4d.

  • John Same, 1501.
  • Clement Bell, occurs 26 Sept. 1554.
  • Giles Widdowes, 1576 (fn. 22) .
  • George Wrightson, pr. 8 Aug. 1586, p. res. Widdowes.
  • Mathias Wrightson, cl. 19 Aug. 1626, p. res. Wrightson.
  • Reginald Steadman, cl. 1680 (fn. 23) .
  • Christopher Collison, cl. p. m. Steadman, 1703.
  • Jonathan Jefferson, cl. 1736 p. m. Collison.
  • William Ellison (fn. 24) , A. M. 1784, p. m. Jefferson.

There are no charitable donations to the Parish of Ebchester.

Under the Lanchester Enclosure Act in 1773 the Perpetual Curate of Ebchester received an allotment of land in lieu of his tithes within the Chapelry of Ebchester (fn. 25) .



It may be as well to present the reader with as much of the fourth and fifth Iters of Richard (and with the corresponding portion of Antonine) as concerns this County.

Part of the fourth Iter, a Lindo ad Vallum—from Lincoln to the Wall:—

Eburaco XXI. York.
Isurio XVI. Aldborough.
Cattaractoni XXIIII. Catterick.
Ad Tisam XII. Piersbridge.
Vinovio X. Binchester.
Epiaco XVIII (or XIIII. (fn. *) ) Lanchester.
Ad Murum VIIII. Halton Chesters.
Alauna Amne XXV. Banks of the Coquet.
Tueda flumine XXX. Banks of the Tweed.
Ad Vallum. Wall.

The Commentary of Mr. Leman states, that this Iter passes the Tees at Piersbridge, proceeds by Royal Oak, St. Andrew Auckland, and the Bishop's Park, to Binchester, where it crosses the Wear and passes on to Lanchester, and without noticing Ebchester or Corbridge, goes directly over the Tyne to the Wall at Halton Chesters.

Richard's fifth Iter, a Limite Praturiam usque—from the Border to Flamborough Head:—

Curia. Antonine. I. Iter.
Ad Fines.
Bremenio VII. Riechester. Bremenium.
Corstoplio XX or XXV. Corbridge. Corstopilum XX.
Vindomora VIIII. Ebchester. Vindomorum VIIII.
Vindovio XVIII. Binchester. Vinoviam XVIIII.
Cattaractoni XXII Catterick. Cattaractonem XXII.
Isurium XXIIII.
Eboraco XL. York. Eboracum XIIII. (var. XVIII. XIII.)

This interesting Iter (apparently the Northern Watling Street) “enters Northumberland at Chew Green, goes from thence to Riechester (leaving unnoticed the station at Risingham), and runs to Corbridge, Ebchester, Binchester, Catterick, and York.”—Leman.

Warburton to Gale:—“It is strange there should be but four great Roman roads recorded, when there are such numbers of them; and more—that the greatest of them should want a name, viz. that which comes from the Roman Wall near Dunbrytton Frith in Scotland, to Rochester in Northumberland, where Antoninus begins his first journey, and from thence continues its course by Corbridge, Ebchester, Lanchester, Binchester, Piercebridge, Caterick, Aldbrough, and I believe might thence be traced directly forward through London to Dover, without interfering with any of the four great roads.”—Gale's MSS.

“The main street proceeds Northward almost in a straight line and uninterrupted ridge from Piercebridge, close to a small village called Denton, and from thence by Bolani, Haughton, St. Helen's Auckland, and soon after crosses the Were to Binchester (Vinovium, where there are to be seen the vestigia of a Roman fort). From this place its course is generally over moorish ground to Lanchester, and six miles further to Ebchester, where it crosses the river Derwent and enters Northumberland. But before I leave Ebchester, which is inferior to no place I have mentioned for antiquities, I cannot but acquaint you that I look upon it to have been the Vinilomora of Antoninus, and not at Wall's-end; since it exactly answers the distance between Corstopitum and Vinovium, the second and fourth stations in the first Iter, viz. nine miles from the first of them, and nineteen from the latter; and this in a direct line along one of the most entire, regular, and large ways I ever saw, and the ridge being for the most part two yards in height, full eight yards broad, and all paved with stone, that it is at present as even as new laid.”—Gale's Essay towards the Recovery of the four Great Roman Ways, printed at the end of the 6th volume of Leland's I tin. edit. 1711, p. 93. edit. 1769.


Epiacum is mentioned by Ptolemy, and is placed by Richard at the head of the towns belonging to the Brigantes. Epiacum, Vinovium, Cambodunum, Cataractoni Galacum, Olicana, Isurium, and the metropolis Eboracum. The catalogue, which traces the towns from North to South, omits Vindomora; and this may be an additional reason for fixing Epiacum, a place of ancient consequence, at the larger station of Lanchester.

3 See note from Gale's MSS. Dr. Hunter's conjecture seems extremely probable, that Lanchester being too near Ebchester to form a day's march, the two stations belonged to different iters; that the track from Lanchester probably crossed the Tyne by a more direct point than Ebchester, and made straight for the Wall at Halton Chesters. See Leman's Commentary on Richard's Iter IV.
4 Have Melitina suavissima.”—Gruter. Salve æternum mihi, [Greek text], &c. exempla ubique scatent.
5 Altars to Vitires are very frequent in the North. Was he supposed (see Horsley in loco) to clear the country of boars and toads? an odd conjunction of business. The toad however was magical from the days of Canidia to Gen Jonson's witches, and frequently appears on altars. A beautiful altar inscribed to Silvanus by a Roman officer, for assisting him to destroy a wild boar which ranged in Weardale, and had escaped his predecessors in authority, will appear in the sequel.

Were not all the fortresses in the conquered countries the work of the Legions? Exactly as the British regiments inscribed their names on centurial stones if you will, along the road which penetrated the Highlands after 1745. A Roman soldier traversing the iter from Corbridge to Vindomora, must have felt something of the sentiment expressed by the modern legionary —

Had you seen these roads before they were made,
You would lift up your hands and bless General Wade.

7 Suppl. p. 974, under the signature of Porcustus. The altar is engraved on the miscell. plate of the Magazine, and in Hutchinson, vol. II. p. 433.
8 St. Ebba had a sister, Oswitha or St. Osyth. Their father Ethelfrid reigned from 593 to 617; and their bastard brother Oswin or Oswy the victorious, from 642 to 670. Ebba was Abbess of Coldingham in the reign of her nephew Eegfrid (the patron of Benedict Biscopius). “Monaster. Coludi ubi amita Regis Ecfridi Ebba Abbatissa fuit.”—Leland's Coll. vol. I. p. 591. And I presume she left her name to the promontory of St. Ebb's head.
9 “Sancta Ebba construxit monasterium feminarum apud Ebchestre juxta ripam Derventionis fluminis, eique ex nomine suo vocabulum indidit ex dono fratris sui Oswini.” Vita S. Ebbe, Cotton. Julius 2. This then affords one derivation of Ebchester; the other is from Epiacum.
10 In 1384 Ebchester is included in Fordham's grant of free warren to the Master. Rot. Fordh.
11 See the Foundation Charter of Sherburn Hospital, vol. I. 283–4.
12 11 Octo. 4 Dudley. Inq. p. m. Will Tyllyol de Mag. Lumley, arm. tenet. mediet. unius cotag. et 3 acr. Ebchestre de Magistro Hosp. de Shirburne per quæ servic. ignor. val. 2s. Item med. 1 cotag. 3 acr. in Medomsley de Dominis de Medomsley, val. 12d.
13 Rob. Smith de Ebchester obiit . . . . Jana filia ejus nupt. Jo. Joblin qui habuerunt exitum Tho. Joblin, Rad. Joblin 2 filium habet ten. ibid. vocat le hill. empt. de Edw'o Musgrave. Rad us Joblin obiit 27 Jan. 1635. Jo. filius ætat. 1 anni 8 mens. 1 mess. et 3 acr. val. 2s.—Mickl. MSS. 55. 107.
14 Mickleton's MSS. 55. 107.
15 Robert, son of John Johnston, baptized 12 Mar. 1619. Isabel, daughter of Cuthbert Johnson, 6 Sept. 1679. John, son of Cuthbert and Jane, 29 May 1681. John, 1683. Robert, bapt. 8 Feb. 1685. Dorothy, daughter of Cuthbert Johnston, of the Hill, and Jane, 10 Oct. 1688. Margaret, &c. 21 Sept. 1692. Cuthbert, son of Robert Johnson, bapt. 1 June 1724. Joseph. &c. 26 April 1727.
16 The two stone piers of an old bridge are visible in the Darwent, but scarcely of Roman origin.
17 See vol. I. p. xlix.
18 See vol. I. p. xlii.
19 Rushworth, Part III. Vol. II. p. 614. See vol. I. p. xcviii.
20 The Nave : two small lancet-lights on the North, one lancet and two sashes on the South. The Chancel: three lancet-lights South, and three smaller on the North. The East window : a sash-light. I. S. 1813.

Cuthbert Surtees, of Ebchester (grandfather of Robert first named in the epitaph); will dated 23 Aug. 1622—“Desires burial in the Quier of Ebchester Church. Mr. Wm Baxter, of Whitworth, owes him 100l.; to his wife Elizabeth; first son Anthony; second son Richard; daughters Magdalene, wife of Raphe Fuister; Mary, wife of Roland Hunter; Catharine, wife of George Bayts; grandson Cuthbert Hunter; 40s.” Elizabeth Surtees, widow of Cuthbert; will dated 1632; names her son Richard's children.

Anthony Surtees, eldest son of Cuthbert, purchased Milkwell-burn 1626, and had issue Robert, and Anthony of Hollinside, who died s. p. Robert, baptized 23 Sept. 1633, married in 1663 to Isabel Newton, and was father of Anthony Surtees, of Milkwell-burn, whose eldest son Robert was father of Robert (who died 1811), and grandfather of Anthony Surtees, Esq. of Hamsterley Hall.

Cuthbert Surtees, fourth and youngest son of Anthony above named (to whom his father in 1712 devised lands and tithes in Ebchester), was of Newbiggin, in Northumberland; and by Dorothy, daughter of Walker Surtees of Stokesfield Hall, co. Northumberland, Gent. had a daughter married to . . . . Wilson, of Corbridge; and an only son Anthony Surtees, Esq. whose firm and modest conduct as major and commanding officer of the Northumberland militia during Lord George Gordon's riots did credit to his head and his heart. The metropolis was in no small degree indebted for its safety to this gallant regiment (fn. *) . Major Surtees refused the honour of knighthood.

George Surtees, of Almondguards, second son of Anthony above named (and brother of Cuthbert), married Elizabeth, daughter of George Surtees, of Cronywell, and left an only son Anthony Surtees, of Ackworth near Pontefract, Esq. Lieul.-Col. of the West York Militia, who devised a considerable estate to his relative Anthony Surtees, of Hamsterley, Esq.

22 Occ. Vicar of Bishopton (also in the patronage of the Hospital 1579) ; his will dated 31 July 1621.
23 Reginald Steadman, clerk, and Margaret Smith married July 20, 1684. Reginald Steadman, cl. died 8, buried 10 May 1703.
24 To whom the Author is indebted for much attention.

See p. 308.

*** The Parochial Register begins 1619; it is in many places very imperfect and confused. Nicholas Wilkinson, Gentilman, and Barbara Sotheron, married 22 July 1621. Robert Chvering, Esq. and Mistress Jane Norton, married 15 June, 1651. Barbara, wife of Mr. Clement Haman, buried 12 Feb. 1692, chancel. Mr. William Ratclifte, buried 27 January 1729.

* The latter distance will suit the truth much better, and will keep up a due distinction betwixt Ebchester (or Vindomora), distant 18 miles, and Lanchester, distant 14 miles, from Binchester.

See the Gentleman's Magazine, Annual Register, &c. for 1780; a more humble tribute to the merits of our Northumbrian heroes is paid in “a song in praise of the Northumberland Buffs;” tune—“Boyne Water.”

“Full fifty thousand stout and bold,
Were assembled in this riot;
Five hundred of Northumberland boys
Made all these thousands quiet.”

*** In Hexham Church behind the altar : Anthony Surtees, Esq. of Newbiggin, died 20 July 1803, aged 60 years.