Escomb Saxon church ‘St. Johns’ was constructed in circa 675 A.D it is the earliest example of a Saxon Church in the United Kingdom and possibly Europe. Set within a circular walled churchyard most scholars agree that St. Johns belongs to the earliest period of Northumbrian Christianity. The church is most likely built of reclaimed stone obtained from the nearby Roman Fort of Binchester ‘Vinovia or Vinovium’ several worked Roman stones are visible around the church. During the 13th century both the interior and exterior of the church were plastered & several frescoes adorned the interior of the church, today though the only fresco that remains is upon the ‘Chancel Arch’ INTERESTING FEATURES INCLUDE: Vernacular roof beams.
Saxon carved altar cross in Chancel. Frosterly marble gravestone in the floor of the sanctuary. 12th Century Font. Granite Cross at porch apex. 7th Century Sundial on south wall. 17th Century Sundial above porch door. Stone in the shape of a mounting block or steps in north wall. Stone with groove caused by chariot or oxen cart in north wall. Roman Sixth Legion ‘LEG VI’ stone inserted upside down in north wall (Faded). Various worked Roman stones with cross chisel marks around the church. Roman altar stone (Faded). 16th Century grave stones of a Pagan & Roman influence.
St. Johns Church had been restored by 1880 following 15 years of neglect when it became disused as a place of worship, apart from this short period of time the church has been in continuous use since 675 A.D. Escomb Saxon Church is two mile from Bishop Auckland and is a real gem that is often over-looked by residents of County Durham & the wider region. Yet St. Johns is a place of pilgrimage & solitude for people around the UK and even the world, many visitors are completing ‘The Wear Valley Way’ a local long distance walk. If the church is not open during visiting hours then do not worry, at the rear of the church are some homes, call at No26 where the keys hang on an hook to the left of the front door ‘genuine northern hospitality just let yourself in but remember to lock up & return the keys to their hook upon exiting & please don’t forget to make a donation to help with the upkeep of St. Johns».