Five miles to the west of Durham City lies the historic village of Brancepeth with castle, church and cottages. A Roman road once passed through the heart of the village area and crossed a steep ravine carrying a tributary of the River Wear. Many surmise that a Roman bridgehead was built at this point which gave rise to a settlement, with fortified house and church. It was from this beginning that the present church was born. The nave appears to have been Anglo-Saxon and possibly dates back to the eighth century. The Normans added the tower in the twelfth century and the Nevilles made further changes in the late 1300s.In the 1600s the clerestory was added which gave the Church further distinctive external outline feature, and enhancing the internal architecture, adding space and light. Around this time also, Bishop Cosin installed fine wood carvings, which were the finest example of this work anywhere in the world. The devastating fire in 1998 completely destroyed the interior and the roof. However you can still see Cosin’s work by visiting the Cathedral. The interior of St Brandon’s Church was particularly splendid, containing several monuments and artefacts from the medieval period as well as a complete and unique set of 17th century furnishings in a flamboyant and richly carved Gothic style.

Date Church Architecture History Castle Rector
1050 Some Anglo-Saxon remains in Church. The Church properly established in Norman times. Base of tower built The Saxon family of Bulmer. A wooden built shrine to St Brandon. When William the Conqueror marched North, the Bulmers seem to have emerged unscathed from the Norman sword. The Norman influence saw the house fortified and tiny church established Bulmer family (Saxon-1174) Prior to 1100 Henry de Bulmer was titled Lord of Bulmer Brancepeth, Midlam and other great possessions, both in Yorkshire and ye Bishopric of Durham. Alan Bulmer 1085 Haeming (a Durham monk)
1100 A substantial tower was added. The three round arches of the second stage are Norman in style, the arch to the nave betraying the coming Gothic style. 1143 Betram Bulmer with his men from Brancepeth joined forces with others to oppose William Cumin, a Scot, who plotted with King David of Scotland to seize the title of Bishop of Durham 1144 Bertram Bulmer.Neville Family (1174- ) Geoffrey de Neville of Horncastle married Emma Bulmer (Geoffrey was grandson of Gilbert de Neville) an admiral of the fleet with William the Conqueror
1194 Henry Neville – died without issue
1131 Godfridus. Some names lost.
1200 Final stage of the tower completed. Upper parts and nave arcades. The Northern arcade built slightly earlier than the Southern arcade. The first aisles were probably fairly narrow with a low eaves line. Lengthening and transepts 1215 It is thought that Henry Neville was present at the signing of the Magna Carta 1227 Isobel Neville (sister of Henry) married Robert Fitzmaldred, Lord of Raby. The son of Isobel and Robert – Geoffrey Fitzmaldred adopted the name of Neville when he inherited the estate.
1257 Robert Neville
1271 Ralph Neville (grandson of Geoffrey)
1254 Galfridus de Foster
1300 Eastern Bay of the Nave added, transepts built and the Aisles widened and extended to clasp the tower. ‘The Peacock’ was buried in the North transept, the spot was marked by a colossal effigy in stone. It is suggested that following the death of Robert ‘The Peacock’ Neville, his father Ralph Lord Neville remodelled the church to provide a more suitable place for his tomb. 1318 Ralph and Robert Neville went to fight the Scots. Robert who was known as the Peacock of the North was slain.
1331+ Ralph Neville fought with Edward III in France
1346 Ralph and son John went into battle (Battle of Neville’s Cross) and brought victory for the English over Scottish Armies led by David, King of Scots.
1331 Ralph Neville junior – steward in household of Edward III 1303 Hugh de Bolton.
1339 Jon Walwyn
1350 1370-1381? Rebuilding of the Chancel. On the transition between decorated and perpendicular. 1385 John Neville appointed Admiral of the fleet from the mouth of the Thames northwards. He accompanied Richard II into Scotland taking 200 men at arms and 300 archers many of them stationed at Brancepeth. Neville Family (Cont.)
1367 John Neville
1389 Ralph Neville ‘Dan Raby Neville became Earl of Westmorland. Second wife Joan Plantagenet was a sister of King Henry IV
1351 Magister Will Legat
1361 Richard de Chesterfield
1384 Lawrence de Allerthorpe
1398 Richard Gower
1400 Rebuilt nave and clerestories added.1483 The Jesus Chantry was founded by Ralph Lord Neville and his wife Isabel. 1399 Henry, Duke of Lancaster landed at Ravenspur, Yorks from Spain to claim the lands of his father John of Gaunt which Richard II had confiscated. Earl of Westmorland joined him and became one of the principals in placing Henry on the throne as Henry IV. The Earl became Marshal of England.The Earl then accompanied Henry V to France and fought at Agincourt with five local knights, thirty horses and eighty archers from Brancepeth. Ralph (Grandson of Earl) 1425 Thomas Scanceby
1434 Peter Freston
1437 Richard Drax
1450   1498 John Ellys of Brancepeth volunteered for the crusades ‘being minded to fight against the Turks and the enemies of Christ’ 1480 Ralph, nephew of second Earl.Neville Family 1456 Thomas Neville
1498 Edward Strangewyshe
1500 Panelled surround to the arch into the South Chapel.It is thought that the South East Chapel was constructed by Ralph Neville as a burial chamber c.1510-1520 Rector Lupton had a hand in a letter sent to Pope Clement VI threatening to throw off his supremacy unless he consented to the divorce of Henry VIII and Queen CatherineDr Anthony Bellasis became Rector on invitation of Thomas Cromwell to whom he had been rector when monasteries were dissolved for Henry VIII. Bellasis set his hand to a decree of 9 July 1540 declaring the marriage of Henry VIII to Ann of Cleves was invalid. Bellasis later became Master of the Rolls. 1523 Ralph (Grandson of third Earl) 1509 Anthony Lupton
1539 Anthony Bellasis
1550   Spurred on by Rector Forster, Charles Neville talked with the Earl of Northumberland about re-establishing the Catholic faith. The Earls planned the ‘Rising of the North’ at Raby Castle while the armies were massing at Brancepeth. The Rising failed and Westmorland fled to Scotland. He died in exile in France. 1550 Henry Neville (5th Earl) Charles Neville1569 Control by Crown (Queen Elizabeth), the estate was taken as compensation for putting down the uprising1592 Henry Sanderson appointed custodian (later hanged) 1558 Nicholas Forster
1571 George Cliffe
1584 Clement Colmore
1600 Cosin added Jacobean North Porch, the parapet and possibly the clerestory and inside adorned the place with magnificent oak carvings, oak altar, the reredos, the chancel screen, the ornamental stalls and repaired the roof1628 Communion Table1638 Panelled ceiling ‘faintly gothic’ 1635 1400 oak trees from West Wood were cut and sent to Woolwich. Brancepeth oak was used to make the first triple decker warship in the British Navy, The ‘Sovereign of the Seas’.Rector John Cosin was appointed Magister Ceremoniarum at the Coronation of King Charles I As King’s Chaplin, Cosin was accused of Popery and declared by House of Commons as unfit for office. He escaped with his life to France. 1613 Estate passed to Sir Robert Carr by James 1. He fell from favour and the castle reverted to the Crown.The estate was forfeited to Edward Ditchfield by Charles 1 from whom the King had borrowed large sums of money.
1623 Estate conveyed to Lady Anne Middleton, Abraham Crosselis and John Jones.
1639 Castle passed to Ralph Cole
1619 Matthew Colmore
1625 John Cosin Henry Leavan (an intruder)
1650   During restoration Cosin again became Chaplain to the King and returned to Brancepeth. He became Bishop of Durham in 1660.
1662 Brevint became Rector, he had met Cosin in France having fled himself when Cromwell came to power.
1655 Sir Nicholas ColeSir Ralph Cole (son of Nicholas) 1660 George Wiseheart
1662 Daniel Brevint
1695 John Tonge
1700     1701 Sir Henry Bellayse of Ludlow purchasedSir William Bellayse (was MP for Durham)Bridget Bellayse (daughter) 1727 William Weckett
1745 Thomas Eden
1750 Main roofs lead coverings 1769 Bridget Bellasyse is said to be the heiress in love with Bobby Shafto who lived at Whitworth Hall- the family seat of Rector Thomas Shafto providing the words to the rhyme ‘Bobby Shafto bright and fair’ 1774 Earl Fauconberg (friend and kinsman)
1774 sold to John Tempest
1754 William Forster
1760 Thomas Goodfellow Shafto
1800 South Porch and extensive restoration. Most of the stained glass added during this century. Mathew Russell took charge of a company in the Durham Militia.
1832 William Russell played a major part in the Great Reform Bill.
Sold to William Russell
1817 Mathew Russell (MP Saltash)
1828 William Russell (became MP Durham)
1800 William Nesfield
1828 Richard Richardson
1839 John Duncombe Shafto
1850 Restoration programmes The Neville tombs moved, pulpit switched from North to South side and pews put in order.1863 A tablet bearing the commandments was re-erected in Chancel. Clock face restored to west wall.1889 Bells Taylor of L’boro, a gift of the Eighth Viscount Boyne 1851 A Wordsworth poem records a great party to celebrate 21st birthday of Gustavas Hamilton Russell
1864 Railway Station constructed and opened
1850 Emma Maria (sister) married Gustavus Frederick John James Hamilton (seventh Viscount Boyne). By Royal licence adopted the name Hamilton Russell.Eighth Viscount Boyne 1854 Arthur Duncombe Shafto
1900   1914-1918 Castle became a war hospital
1918 – 1962 The Durham Light Infantry moved into the Castle as regimental headquarters and an army camp was built
Boynes left Castle because of expense although kept contact with estate. Gustavus Russell (killed in action Dunkirk)
1948 Sold to Duke of Westminster (castle remained empty)
1900 Frederick Warre Glyn
1919 Charles Henry Surtees
1946 William Edward Wright
1950 – 1997   1965 Station closed 1959 Sold to Castle Estates Limited
1965 Sold to James A Jobling of Sunderland (Pyrex glass firm) became part of Corning Glass of America.
197? – present Alison Hobbs
1960 Ronald Graham Gregory Foley
1972 Alan David Chesters
1985 Alan Hubert Nugent
1994 Ralph Mayland
1997 Adrian Dorber
1998 – 2018 1998 Devastating fire destroys interior and roof of St Brandon’s
1998 – 2005 Congregation worships in Brancepeth Village Hall
2005 Congregation returns to restored St Brandon’s.
    2002 David Couling
2006 Rick Simpson