Bearpark is a village that lies about 3 miles west of Durham City. The village gets its name from the French word Beaurepaire, meaning beautiful retreat. These are the ruins of the priory that were built back in 1258 by the then Prior of Durham Bertram de Middleton, as a retirement residence. It had been extended by the monks of Finchale Priory over period of three centuries. In 1640, the Scots followed by the English Civil War in 1644 had all but destroyed it.
In 1872 Theodore Fry set about coal mining in the village, which produced world class coal for coking fuel. The pit closed during the miner’s strike of 1984. The hills just south of the manor, across the river, were the old pit heaps (coal spoil). They have since been re-landscaped and has been returned to woodland. The old railway lines, linked with the colliery, run along side and is now popular with cyclist, walkers and runners (like myself).
Visit May 2021
I come from Bearpark, and I sometimes pop down to see the ruins when I visit my family. I was amazed of the renovation works carried out by DREAM Heritage, and volunteers from the local communities. Many years ago back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, there had already been an archaeological dig. Since then, the ruins had been left unkempt, until a couple of years ago when the Dream Heritage started their project. With lockdown, unfortunately I could not help with the project, I would have loved to come up and help out over the odd weekend. My dad tried his a hand, but his health stopped him from continuing with the volunteer groups. They have done amazing work here, and still continue to do so.
I visited last May (2021); my partner took his drone and managed to get a good view from the air, I took my camera, and we were both chuffed with the sunset, as I when we have been before (with my camera), we were not as lucky as we were with it this time. The sunset views west looks out towards Burnhope, which has a huge TV transmitter and is dotted with wind turbines. The manor house is on a small hill, overlooking the River Browney, about a mile north of Bearpark.
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