Historic Durham church celebrates 900th anniversary
Published 29 August 2012
A Durham church that can trace its spiritual history back to before even the city's great cathedral is celebrating its 900th anniversary next month.
St Giles Church, in Gilesgate, opened its doors for worship in 1112 - at least 10 years before Durham Cathedral.
It will be marking the impressive milestone with a medieval fair on 8 September between 10am and 5pm.
The fair is part of year of events to celebrate the nine centuries that the church has stood through.
The Rev Dr Julia Candy, curate at the church, said: “The event will make the point that the church has been serving the community for nine hundred years and will be there for the next nine hundred years. It will always be there.
“It will be a chance for people to see what has stayed the same in that time and what has changed.
"For instance, there is a woman in a dog collar and the services now take place in English rather than Latin, a language people would not understand today.
“The event is about helping people to realise that the church is not just about the clergy but that it’s a whole community thing.”
Louisa Gidney, of Tow Law, County Durham, will be bringing the event to life with the help of her livestock, including chicks and her mule Frances.
Gidney, an archaeologist who runs Rent a Peasant, will spend the day talking to people about life in medieval England.
She said: “My work is about helping people to engage in history and animals are part of the church’s history. At times of insurrection, where else would you take your animals to keep them safe when the Scots were marauding but a large stone building with a firm door?
“Animals were a big part of everyday life. For example, one of the things I do is spinning, which helps people make the connection between animals and community life.
"People tend to think of knights in shining armour but there were large numbers of peasants making sure they were fed and clothed.”
Dunholm Living History will bring the medieval age to life with authentic tents featuring crafts such as spinning, weaving, dye samples, shoemaking, bone working, weapons and equipment.
Adults and children will have the opportunity to try on chain mail and other medieval armour, and have a go at braiding and spinning.
There will also be combat displays and the training of ‘new recruits’ where children can pretend they are in the Baron’s household.
Blacksmith Adrian Wood will use traditional blacksmith techniques to create contemporary and innovative designs.
What has St Giles witnessed over the centuries?
1112 St Giles opens for worship
1133 Durham Cathedral is completed
1312 Robert the Bruce burns the suburbs of Durham
1356 The first Town Hall is built at Durham
1598 Plague returns to Durham for the third time in 54 years
1722 The first theatre opens in Durham
1820 Durham prison is built
1824 Durham gains gas light
1832 Durham University is founded
1844 The railway reaches Durham
1851 Durham Town Hall is rebuilt
1960 The School of Oriental Studies opens
1963 County Hall is built
1969 A museum of the Durham Light Infantry opens
1975 A new Elvet Bridge is built
1976 Millingburngate Shopping Centre is built
1999 Prince Bishops Shopping Centre opens
2002 Gala Theatre and Clayport Library open
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